Ryan Michad on The Detonics Pocket 9

Today, the lightweight pocket 9mm handgun market is flooded with options, with that configuration being one of the major “weapons of choice” for the contemporary concealed handgun carrier. However, in the 1980s, it was a different world. Those few who carried firearms on a daily basis generally preferred to carry revolvers, either larger service-sized firearms, or smaller snubnosed .38 cal “detective” models. Detonics, a company whose name elicits excitement from handgun geeks all over due to their at one time unique catalog, developed a pocket 9mm handgun in 1985, ten years ahead of the Kel-Tec P11 that jumpstarted that market in the mid-1990s. Detonics’¬†gun – appropriately called the “Pocket 9” – was a commercial flop (being cancelled in 1986), but its innovative design makes it today a special rarity sought after by handgun collectors. Ryan Michad, host of the Firearm Radio Network’s Gun Guy Radio and Handgun Radio shows, takes a look at the Pocket 9 in a video embedded below:

The Pocket 9 uses an interesting obturation-delayed blowback mechanism, whereby brass cases are allowed to expand outward into a ring cut in the barrel’s chamber. This delays the separation of the case and the barrel long enough to maintain a reasonable slide and return spring weight. However, as Ryan discovered, the Pocket 9 carries with it a substantial recoil, despite being a metal-framed pistol with a fairly hefty slide, suggesting higher than normal slide velocity.

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


  • PXN

    Recoil aside, I would still love to own one.

    • I don’t know that you would like it. The thing is blocky and finding a holster will be a task. I bought mine when they came out since I really liked the Detonics Combat Master. I should have waited I was disappointed in the Pocket 9.

      • The wacky thing was that Detonics follow up models to the Pocket 9 were an equally large Pocket 380 and an even larger Pocket 9 Long Slide.

  • Nehemiah Sirkis designed the operating mechanism you’re referring to, which is also called a “Sirkis Chamber”. He was responsible for a number of pocket pistols of the 80’s and 90’s, such as the Sardius SD9, Intratec CAT9, and the Cobra Patriot 45. He also designed rimfire rifles for Kimber, and some centerfire rifles for the IDF (including the new IWI Dan). Quite a guy!

    • W.P Zeller

      How about the AMT BackUp- I have a .40 and it leaves a ring in the brass such as described.
      I had the idea this was a manufacturing defect, and that the barrel is about to separate. Maybe not.
      Apart from that, it’s such a lousy gun that it’s hard to imagine a use for it beside a paperweight.
      I got it so cheaply I wasn’t worried about it being bad. I would have preferred the .45 version as they were thought by many to be better-working, and, with the much lower pressures involved, more likely to stay in one piece.
      It did actually run 50 rounds of Gold Dots perfectly, which may speak more to the quality of the Speer product.
      Light strikes and feed failures mostly due to ammo/magazine combination sensitivity are the biggest issues.
      But if it’s not dangerous, ringing the brass like that, maybe I’ll play around with it some more.

    • Using a groove (or grooves) in the chamber to delay extraction in a blowback firearm predates Sirkis. While employed at Springfield Armory, Otto von Lossnitzer recommended such a system during the late 1940s for the US Army’s 9x19mm pistol prototypes. High Standard even incorporated it in a couple of their T3 prototypes. Alas, someone had their heart set on adopting a straight blowback pistol.

      Years later, Colt used a variation on the scheme in their Mk III National Match pistols chambered for .38 Special wadcutters.

    • Sirkis was also responsible for the redesigned Swartz Safety used in the Kimber Series II models.

      One of his more curious Detonics-era designs was a 7-shot top break magnum revolver.


      “The Hebrew Hammer” blog has posted on a couple of other Sirkis handgun designs that never made it to the market.


      There was also the Sardius M26 sniper conversion of the AK-series, and the M36 bullpup conversion of the M14 rifle.



  • Sulaco

    Collectors are now looking for these? Sheeh should have kept mine which I traded off more than 15 years ago. Shot well and carried easy, but the internals just looked and felt weak…I didn’t think the recoil was that bad. Rapid fire was easy to keep on target at 10 yards.

  • Savage Chromasign

    I know Ryan! He’s awesome!

  • claymore

    Man I lusted after one of these. My undercover career started in 1985 and this was the hot new toy everybody undercover wanted. The look of it and the way it works reminds me of a Sterling .380, that I forget the model name of that I did have, with the exception of the annular cut barrel, very similar controls and shape…