SHOT Show: Rohrbaugh Firearms R9 is No Range Toy

As Karl Rohbaugh¬†readied himself for iPhone immortality, the gunmaker shuffled the five pocket pistols on the glass countertop like a Las Vegas poker dealer. Within seconds all the guns were sitting dead center on their assigned black mats, all facing the same way. I realized that Rohrbaugh Firearms’ main man is a fellow OCD sufferer. Actually, I made the diagnosis even before I’d caught his attention, when I first racked the slide on one of his mini-marvels. It felt like all semi slides should: smooth, precise, solid, sexy. The double action-only trigger pull was as long as a midsummer’s night dream, but the R9 still felt like a lion amongst ladies’ guns. So, one mouse gun to rule them all? Well, that depends . . .

As the video indicates, Karl reckons the R9 is not a gun with which you would get to Carnegie Hall. In other words, you can’t practice, practice, practice. Which is a shame, because I like to practice, practice, practice. Not plink. Practice. Anyway, to secure a test gun for TTAG, I had to promise not to put more than a hundred rounds through the weapon. For me, that’s like leaving a sushi restaurant after a bowl of miso soup.

The things we do for love. Like replacing the R9′s recoil spring after every 200 rounds. On an $1150 pocket gun? Hey, the spring’s only $5 plus S&H, Swapping it out gives you the chance—well, forces you—to check under the hood of Rohrbaugh’s jewel-like gun. How great is that?

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

20 Responses to SHOT Show: Rohrbaugh Firearms R9 is No Range Toy

  1. avatar2yellowdogs says:

    Um, an $1,150 pocket 9 that you should only shoot every “6, 8, 10 months” or so, and that needs its springs replaced every 200 rounds? I can appreciate hand fitting, close tolerances and that old school feel, but when you can get 2 PM-9s or almost 4 PF-9s for the same price (and shoot the hell out of them) I think I’ll pass Mr. Rohrbaugh, thank you very much.

  2. avatarPelle Schultz says:

    The R9 (and R9S, which I own/carry) is vastly superior in feel and action to any other mouse guns I’ve tried–and that includes the Kahr PM9 and a fair number of .380s like the Ruger LCP. It may have the best DA trigger on a pocket pistol…ever. It’s also easy to carry, beautifully made and more accurate (based on the examples I’ve tested) than the others I’ve mentioned.

    New springs cost $3. Realistically you can wait a bit longer than 200 rounds. The springs do show wear at that point, but I’ve let mine go up to 400 rounds and never had a failure to cycle.

    Who in their right mind “shoots the hell” out of a mouse gun anyway? I put a few dozen rounds through mine every 2-3 months, but you can’t change the laws of physics. No mouse gun, particularly in 9mm, is ever going to be pleasant to shoot.

    • avatarCNS says:

      I have to disagree with that. I find my Kahr PM9 to be very pleasant to shoot.

      I’m not sure what the definition of “shooting the hell” out of a gun is, but yes you should practice and train frequently with whatever gun you carry, whether it’s a mouse gun or not. A gun that can’t be used for extensive training is not worth the normal price of a firearm, much less over 1,000 dollars.

      • avatarPelle Schultz says:

        Presumably you have Popeye-like forearms and would also find the R9 pleasant to shoot. There is a 0.5 oz. difference in weight between them, although I suspect the PM9′s slide is a bit heavier.

        Have you shot a Rohrbaugh?

  3. avatarGAKoenig says:

    I had always liked the R9. It is a beautifully machined and seemingly nicely engineered weapon. One day, while at my favorite local dealer, the had a NIB one for about $200 off. One of their other “Gotta have the latest!” collectors had bought two, never fired one and brought it back in to flip it on something else.

    So I bought it. My first (and only) range session was a complete disappointment. The tiny beast failed to feed multiple ammo types. Before I get accused of being a man who’s wrists are jello, I should note that my Kahr PM9 runs like a sewing machine. I got 200 rounds down the pipe (just) with about 20 FTF – and that rate was getting worse as the weapon broke in. Clearly, time for the little R9 to take a trip back to NY.

    No big deal I thought to myself – Rohrbaugh will take care of me (it is a 3 month old gun!). Call them up. Get told that – as I am not the original owner – I get to pay shipping, both ways (FedEx, of course) and the joy of paying a diagnostics fee, on top of whatever adjustments must be made.

    The R9 was returned to the firearms dealer and my money refunded (and turned around to buy an HK45). Unless I hear that my experience was an aberration, I see no need to buy from these knuckleheads again. One should copy Porsche’s product, not their customer service.

    Besides, the R9 is old hat. The Sig P290, Kimber Solo, Ruger LC9, newer Kahr PM9s… all launch the same bullet from roughly similar size guns. All are either proven, or made by companies with track records for building them right (or taking very good care of the customer when they don’t).

    • avatarPelle Schultz says:

      I’m surprised to hear that you had those issues. I’ve only had a few FTF ever, and that was using cheap FMJ (which also caused issues for my HK P2000). I’ve never had to send mine in for service so I can’t comment on Rohrbaugh’s policies in that area.

      I have read in various reviews online that some R9s have been picky with various types of 9mm. Based on my experience, it seems not to be specific to the entire line. Or maybe I was just lucky.

  4. No one shoots the hell out of their pocket 9mm. My point is that unlike Rohrbaugh’s little overengineered jewel, you CAN shoot a PM-9 til the cows come home and not have to worry about your spring.

    And yes, the spring is cheap. And it’s easy to replace. The question is, if Kahr (and even Kel-Tec) can manage to source springs that last more then 200-400 rounds, why can’t Rohrbaugh?

    • avatarGAKoenig says:

      I’m an industrial designer, not a firearms engineer. My best guess is that the R9 requires a new recoil spring for two reasons:

      - It is incrementally smaller than any other 9mm. Not by much, but when you get into mouse guns, minor work to shave off size requires tremendous engineering as the forces of recoil have even fewer places to go.

      - The aluminum frame. It isn’t as stout as a Kahr Mk9 stainless frame, and doesn’t have the inherent flex of a polymer frame. As such, it needs more buffering and a spring that is kept up to spec.

      Also, Kel-Tecs have a reputation for only lasting about 100 rounds. I’ve been an assistant instructor at our range for our basic handgun class. Kel Tecs are nothing but a nightmare. Great for people who want a “gun” as a magical talisman to ward off evil, but they are not up to actually being used very much. This is not a one-off opinion; I challenge you to find a firearms instructor with a decent reputation and volume of students who would ever recommend a Kel Tec.

      • avatarChris Dumm says:

        Kel-Tecs *don’t* have a reputation for only lasting 100 or so rounds, but I can understand how a bunch of brand-new Kel-Tecs (in the hands of brand-new shooters) might give a shooting instructor fits. Some of them, including mine, experience long and eventful break-in periods before they’re ready for prime time.

        My PF-9 had its teething pains, but I would have to have replace it several times over if it had only lasted 100 rounds.

  5. avatarTXGuitarMan says:

    I can vouch for the KelTec (I had the P-11 9mm) being a literal pain in my hands to shoot – I had one for a year, and after the fluff n buff, after getting rid of the 12-round mags that failed, replacing them with factory 10 round mags, I had a very reliable CCW. I had complete confidence, based on putting ~800 rounds through it over about 7-8 range sessions, that it functioned flawlessly with FMJ, JHP, anything I fed through it.
    My issue with it was the design of the backstrap; the recoil slammed into the area of my hand between the thumb and forefinger, affecting accuracy – it didn’t transfer the recoil through my arm.
    I sold it to a guy who was going to use if for home defense (?) but I got $225 for it (after paying $239 for it) – I had added many extras such as a refinish to the slide, 4 total mags, overgrip, belt clip, etc..
    I decided to go to a Taurus PT-145 given the almost equal dimensions, and shooting the .45 caliber is actually a dream compared to the 9mm. The fit is so much better for me and I get very decent groups from it. I don’t mind carrying something bigger/heavier – it is in no way considered a pocket gun nor (I hate this term) a “mouse” gun.
    The gist of my comment is that every person is different as to what they want in their CCW – it might be concealability, weight, features – as long as the person can get rounds on target consistently with an effective stopping caliber, that should be it.
    Having said all of that, I will never buy another KelTec – for the reasons listed (fit, need to work on it to make it reliable) – if you know that going in, great. If you expect a CCW to function flawlessly out of the box (not an unreasonable expectation) you’ll have to pay for it.

  6. avatarrabbi says:

    Unfortunately the R9 has a history of problems

  7. avatarJerry says:

    I could sure use your advice – I LOVE the Glock 19 and so bought a 26 for carry. It’s just too big and I won’t carry it when I don’t have a heavy winter jacket. I normally wear tucked sport shirts and Levi’s or Dockers. I want something small – therefore I have been concentrating on the S&W Bodyguard .380. There is a gun show here this Saturday and I know I will buy something! But it has to be little or I just simply will not carry it. Yes, I know…. I have other bigger guns in the house, but better to carry little than not carry.

  8. avatarGAKoenig says:

    Jerry-
    There are lots of pocket size 9mm pistols out now, and they are small enough to obliterate the size advantages of the .380.

    Unfortunately, nearly all those new options are either not available yet (Ruger, Sig P290, Kimber Solo) or have reliability issues that make them hard to recomend (the Rohrbaugh, KelTec or new Diamondback DB-9).

    While the pocket size 9mm is clearly in a big development push- the two beat options are the same as always- Kahr PM9 and the S&W J Frame.

  9. avatarTTACer says:

    Any of the AI (or the Rabbi) have an informed opinion about the Kahrs?

  10. avatarBrett Solomon says:

    Hey GA,
    In a recent test of .380 mouseguns done by NRA American Rifleman writer Wiley Clapp, the Rohrbaugh was the only one to not have any malfunctions. It was a field of seven mouseguns… I believe Wiley and his tests are unbiased. Just sayin’

  11. avatarWFS says:

    My little R9S (one of the 1st 525 off the line) has been flawless from day one. After a assured proper function with my chosen carry load — Gold Dot JHPs — I loaded it up and carried daily. Every 3-4 months or so I’ll shoot through the carry ammo and restock the mags with fresh Gold Dots. Based upon the finish wear on my R9′s frame from daily pocket carry — I am an example of Karl’s “carry alot and shoot little” concept. Personally, I hope to never find myself in need to deploy the little Rohrbaugh in self-defense — but I am completely confident it will rise to the occasion and perform the required duties with flying colors.

  12. avatarInfidel N8 says:

    I was very interested in the R9 about a year ago. I have carried many compact and subcompact semi autos, but still wanted something smaller. Luckily I waited, because there are so many better options out there now with high quality, reliable, and far less expensive 9mm subcompacts (I.e. Kahr PM9 and CM9). If your pistol needs replacement parts after such a small round count, and it FTF with some ammo types, there will always be reliability issues in the back of your mind (if there isn’t there should be). This is completely unacceptable in a CCW, let alone one that is so expensive.

    If your thinking about buying one, don’t. Do yourself a favor and buy one of the far superior subcompact 9s that are currently on the market; at a substantially lower price. For those of you that already bought one of these polished turds, I’m sorry but you’ll never convince the gun community that these are good pistols.

    These are the highest quality pistols in their niche, just don’t shoot it often. Lol, that comment should tell you everything.

  13. avatarCharles says:

    That’s not Karl in the video. It’s his brother

  14. avatarJohn323 says:

    Looking into this gun – when I read, basically, “we don’t recommend that you shoot it very much” that was all I needed to hear. A life-saving tool that you’re not supposed to practice with? Garbage. Do you think a dozen rounds every few months is enough to be proficient with any firearm, much less one of this small size? This kind of stupidity is usually reserved for the non-gun, sheeple croud.

  15. avatarRER says:

    I have been shopping for my first pistol. I am on the fence about the R9. I think it is a good fit for me. Of course no one likes shelling out big bucks and the price will probably stop me from buying one.

    Also I agree this spring issue is a matter that needs to be corrected. Everything else about this gun is engineered to perfection, So the spring should be also.

    As for the number of rounds. If your aim is that bad sell your guns. Only in the Army do I recall shooting hundreds of rounds through one gun. However I also have several hunting rifles and shotguns I use annually and I never shoot a full box of shells target shooting. That is a waste of Ammo and money.

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