Gun Review: Kel-Tec PF-9

[ I am pleased to present the first post in the series of guest posts that will run for the next couple of weeks. This post was written by Aaron Spuler. ]

I’d been looking at the local gun shops over the past few months, but they only have so much selection. The Saxet gun show is in Austin, Texas every third weekend of the month. Hadn’t been to a gun show in a while, and knew that it would be a good opportunity to not only see but get some hands-on time with a variety of different pistols. Specifically, I was looking for a reliable, compact every day carry pistol. I’d been planning on carrying my Bersa Thunder 380, but it is just a little heavy and large for daily carry. There is a variant of the Bersa Thunder 380 intended for concealed carry, but I just own the standard version. So I put together a list of different pistols to take a look at and did some online research before going to the show.

Kel-Tec PF-9

I was a little disappointed as the selection was not as varied as I’d hoped – predominantly Glocks and Sigs, with small amounts of others thrown in the mix. I did, however manage to get to handle a Kel-Tec
PF-9. That was at the top of my list of pistols to check out at the show. The three vendors selling new Kel-Tec PF-9’s were selling them for anywhere from $15 – $65 over MSRP. In other words: not good. I’m glad I did a second look at one table, because there was a PF-9 on the table that I missed the first time around for under MSRP. Purchased the brand new Kel-Tec PF-9 for $302.85, including tax.

After the show I purchased an extra magazine, a Hogue Handall Jr. grip sleeve, and some Hornady Critical Defense 115 grain JHP ammunition to go along with the pistol. I already had a Desantis Nemesis holster, originally purchased for the Bersa Thunder 380, that the PF-9 fits into nicely.

I took the PF-9 out to the range on Saturday and put 130 rounds through it at a target posted 30 feet away. I tested a combination of 115 grain PMC FMJ and Winchester JHP. Both the FMJ and JHP ammunition cycled and fired flawlessly – I experienced zero errors (failure to feed, failure to fire, failure to eject).

The PF-9 does not possess an external safety, and relies instead on a double-action only (DAO) trigger. The trigger pull distance is slightly long, but the pressure is spaced evenly throughout, rather
than a heavy jump right before the hammer is released. The trigger pull weighs in at a reasonable 6 pounds of pressure, similar to that of a double action revolver.

Surprisingly, for such a lightweight gun, I did not notice any issues with the recoil, and neither did another shooter that put 8 rounds through the PF-9. Perceived recoil may be slightly more than a full
size pistol, but at 15.5 oz (fully loaded), that is to be expected with this size of pistol. Recoil is considerably less than that of a Ruger LCP, which weighs in at 9.4 ounces and fires the smaller .380
ACP cartridges.

The sight picture is a traditional 3 dot system, and point of aim is very natural. I could close my eyes, bring the PF-9 up to aim, and open my eyes to find the sights very near their intended location.

I tended to take up the slack in the trigger to about 80% and then jerk the remaining 20% during the first magazine. Although I was able to maintain a good sight picture, jerking the trigger caused groupings to be in the 8 – 10 inch range. After correcting that issue by maintaining a steady pull on the trigger all the way through, I found that the PF-9 is capable of more accuracy than I am. I was able to consistently get 8 round groupings that could be covered by the palm and fingers of one hand. The final 8 rounds fired for the day were in a grouping approximately 3 inches in diameter.

Caliber 9mm
Weight (unloaded) 12.7oz
Weight of a loaded magazine 2.80oz
Length 5.85″
Height 4.30″
Width 0.88″
Barrel Length 3.10″
Capacity 7+1

Once I have my license to carry (waiting on the state to finish processing my application) I’ll be carrying this pistol with me everywhere I’m legally able to.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Homer

    Picked up a PF-9 a little over a year ago when I had several formal events to attend, and my usual carry wouldn’t work with a tux. The 3AT would have worked, but I wanted something with more snort than .380. Mine fed every ammo brand I tried in it, and was accurate with Fed 9BP. Got one of the right-side-mounted carry clips for it from Kel-Tec, and that works well behind the right hip inside my tux pants. Accuracy is acceptable, suffers from the size of the gun (my hands are too big for it) and the long trigger pull, but OK for the living room distances it’s designed for. I don’t carry it a lot, but it’s close enough to the 3AT in size that it occasionally gets dropped into a pocket as a backup when clothing choice dictates.

    I’d suggest establishing a good periodic cleaning and inspection regimen; I’ve heard of a few of the 3ATs suffering sweat-induced corrosion on some of the internal pins which then break and render the gun unusable. I don’t know if the PF-9 will experience the same type of internal corrosion, but the designs are very similar. Shoot it often, clean and inspect it oftener, and don’t forget to clean the spare mags.

  • Clint

    “point of aim is very natural”
    Point of aim is the location were the sights point to when they are properly lined up. It is completely different from being able to index the gun easily. Some people call this “natural indexing” or “pointablty”.

  • JJ Kavanaugh

    Good Post! – I have a OOP Kel-Tec P40 as my Glock 22 or 23 “One gun is none – two is one” backup. Despite a lot of folks demeaning Kel-Tech in general, I now own a couple pistols and rifles…and impatiently lust after an RFB. Any prpoblems have been me not the gun it sure doesn’t like 180 grain bullets or a limp wrist. …ENJOY!

  • Erik

    I did a similar ‘survey’ of compact CCW’s a couple yrs ago. I considered the Kel-Tec, mini Glock’s etc but settled on the Kahr PM9 and am very happy with it. The PF-9 had a lot to recommend it but ultimately I was scared by a number of quality/reliability issues I read about. If you’re willing to tweak it though, I’m sure it will be a fine weapon.

  • Travis

    My first pistol was a Bersa Thunder .380. I sold it when I bought a Ruger LCP. After reading your post, especially the part about recoil, I plan to buy a PF9. Thanks for the solid info!

  • BigWill

    Thanks for the review. I’ve been looking at this and it’s bigger brother for some time now. The PF9 felt better in my hands than the P-11. I intend for this to be my first pistol for concealed carry after I get my license. Thanks again.

  • Thanks for the comments guys.

    Homer, I’ll keep a look out for any corrosion.

    Clint, thanks for the correction. I meant to get across natural indexing but my word choice was a little off.

  • Komrad

    I have not personally shot any pistols larger than a .38 (not counting a large rifle caliber pistol fired from a rest) so I have almost no experience, but at short distances is a .380 that much less effective that a 9mm? They use the same diameter bullets so its really only a matter of velocity. Assuming you’re firing at a man sized target at less than 50 feet would velocity be more important than quicker recovery? Also is a .38 more or less powerful than a .380?

  • nwhobbies

    I was happy with my PF-9 right up until my wife decided she had to have it for HER carry gun.

    Between the 2 of us, several hundred rounds downrange with nary a problem.

  • AZRober

    For a 9mm, I much prefer the Walther PPS for CCW work. I have two now, my first I bought new and then found a used one for a great price. The PPS is very accurate and I have had zero issues with both firearms, they eat anything I feed them and conceal very well.

    The LCP is snappy for a .380 but a good back up for the main arm as is the LCR .38 +P which I use either for my main PPS back up.

    One gun is none and two is one……..

  • Congrats on your new Kel-tec. I love my PF-9 and traded away a P-11 to get it. I use a Crossbreed IWB tuckable holster for mine and it disappears under a tucked in knit shirt of dress shirt. My wife doesn’t even know when I’m carrying with this rig. You might check out the Crossbreed holster as alternative to the inside the pocket model.

    My P3AT rides in a front pocket holster 5+ years now.

  • Matthew

    These are decent pieces. My favorite aspect of Kel-Tec, is the accessibility, to consumers in need of a value weapon that works for the most part. They seem to make for good introduction CCW weapons or backup. Not my first choice, but a solid choice for those on a budget or who fancy Kel-Tecs for any other reason.

  • Matt Groom

    @ Komrad

    “Also is a .38 more or less powerful than a .380?” Generally. .38 Special more powerful, and depending on who loads them, considerable more powerful. But at normal pressures and out of a snub nosed barrel, .380 Auto and .38 special are approximate equals.

  • Matt Groom

    Also, 9mm is significantly more powerful than .38 Special out of most barrel lengths. Out of a snub nosed revolver, .357 Magnum is significantly more powerful than a 9mm out of a PF-9 (around 100fps/63fpe), as well as significantly less pleasant to shoot! Stephen Camp’s website Hi Powers and Handguns has a number of very good articles on the subject.

  • Komrad

    Interesting site. Thanks for the info.

  • Tom Stone

    A woman friend of mine is a VA nurse who has to walk to her car through an unlighted area at 11 PM when she gets off work.She wants to get a reliable concealable pistol to carry.Night sights or a laser are desired and $500 is about the Maximum she can afford.She is comfortable with firearms but hasn’t owned one in 20 years.Recomendations would be appreciated,reliability with good ammo is paramount.

  • Jeff M


    Sounds like the LCR with the crimson laser grip would be ideal. Other nice aspects are that it’s double-action-only, which I think is ideal for unholstered purse carry, and with the revolver you pretty much have 100% guaranteed 5 shots, no cleaning required for it to function reliably.


  • chris

    I pick mine up this week.

  • Thomas

    I purchased a used Kel-Tec PF-9 this past weekend and got to try the pistol out today ! Fired a box of Walmart 9MM at a cardboard box 3×3 inches at 20 paces , all the rounds hit the target , no failure to feed or extraction problems at all ! A very light weight weapon , you barely notice it in your pocket , recoil was not that bad ! I do recommend this little weapon for self-defence ! As a side note I feel that the quality of the Kel-Tec weapons have improved very much since their first .32 automatics were produced , I orginally purchased a new Kel-Tec P-32 over 10 years ago , I had nothing but problems with that gun ! Failure to feed , extraction problems and mostly mis-fires with various brands of ammo , and ultimately the trigger pull became so tight I could not even shoot the weapon !

  • Evan Cargill

    I work at a gun store in Texas and I see alot of guns come through the shop. Kel Tec pistols are the biggest piece of crap that I have ever sold. They fall apart from me just showing them to customers. The magazine catch is the first thing to go. When the gun does actually fire it has failure to chambe, failure to eject, and stove piping issues. If I never want to get a customer’s return business, I can always sell them a kel tec.


    • KL

      I have to agree. My p3at fell apart just because I looked at it. Literally. I put it down for a minute and it literally fell apart right there. Something snapped and it just fell apart. Glad it happened then and there though, because I almost trusted it to help defend my life.

  • Barry

    Anyone interested in purchasing fiber optics sights for a Kel Tec PF9 or P11?

  • Richard Begley

    Hello my name is Rick and I need some help with my kel tec pf9 pistol. The bolt assembly is lock in the back position how can I get it to operator normal?