Gun Review: Rohrbaugh R9S Stealth

In my ongoing quest to avoid buying and carrying the snub-nosed, hammerless revolver that is likely my destiny, I took my Rohrbaugh R9 to the range for a little quality time. I purchased this R9 used with about 150 rounds on the clock. Prior to this, I’d run about 100 rounds through it with no failures at all except when shooting Aguila ammo. The R9 simply could not light off the primers of the Mexican ammo. Yesterday, I just wanted to get a feel for the gun again, so I purchased a box of each of Wally World’s finest: Federal, Winchester White Box, and Tula ammo and headed to the range. I set the target at five yards and let fly with slow, two handed fire . . .

With the WWB ammo, my first group was tight: about six inches across. I followed this with a six-shot group through one ragged hole with one flyer. For the second mag, I loaded the Rohrbaugh with the Federal ammo. I experienced one failure to extract on the second mag. I tried the Tulammo and found that, again, the R9 could not light off the primers. So no testing with that ammo then; I’ll feed the leftovers to the extremely un-picky Glock.

I ran through 60 rounds, alternating ammo, and did a couple fast strings, emptying the mag quickly. The pistol ran well, but I did have a failure to extract in one of the later mags, again with the federal ammo. The recoil is stout, but not unmanageable, I don’t think I would want to put 200 rounds through the gun in a range session.

Our esteemed senior editor likes to call the R9, the gun you aren’t supposed to shoot. Actually he is correct. The Rohrbaugh HQ recommends you shoot it enough to get familiar with it, and be sure your carry ammo works in it, then stop firing and carry it. Run a couple mags through it when you are at the range shooting the other guns, to refresh the ammo, but otherwise: shoot little, carry much. The factory recommends recoil spring change ($5) every 200 rounds.

On the carry issue: The Rohrbaugh R9 is the smallest, lightest pistol chambered for the 9mm Parabellum round that I know. As such, it carries like a dream. The R9 is as smooth as a used bar of soap, and would be about as slippery if wet I imagine. It is very comfortable for carry, and easy peasy to conceal in pocket or in waistband. It is designed purposely without a slide lock, safety, or mag release on the side so nothing would catch from pocket deployment. In fact, the pistol originally had no sights, but they were added by customer request, and it is available either sighted or sight free (R9S or R9 respectively).

Handling the pistol is natural for me. Doing dry fire exercises from a draw found the pistol pointed naturally and finding the front sight was a breeze. The grip is a bit short and very smooth, making it a bit hard to hold on to.  I have seen many videos of shooters of this gun adjusting their grip after each shot.  I was able to make things a bit better with a ghetto mag extension solution.  The mag extension is from Pearce and made for single stack 9mm Kahrs. It just needs a little modification in the form of a notch cut in the back of it to allow use on the R9.  I also went at it with a Dremel until I liked the fit.  Beautiful custom Al mag extensions are sometimes available on the Rohrbaugh forums for approximately six times the price of the Pearce extensions.

R9 is not as light as the plastic Pocket .380s from Kel Tec and Ruger, but is about the same weight and size as the Sig P238 and the newly re-introduced Colt Mustang Pocket Lite. I expect the Bersa Thunder .380 is about the same. By most accounts, the former pistols are not a reliable as the Rohrbaugh, and the latter heavier pistols are more shooter friendly than the R9.

I typically carry the pistol in my pocket in either a Desantis Nemesis Holster, or a Recluse pocket holster. My default is the Nemesis, but the Recluse is nice when I am worried about printing (it prints as well, but prints “wallet” not “gun”).  I like both designs, but the Nemesis is just a touch lighter and feels more balanced.  The Recluse draws faster.  I have a custom kydex IWB holster that allows for occasional belt carry.

The R9 is built with a steel slide on an aluminum frame and carbon fiber grip panels. It comes in two finishes, stainless or “Stealth” which is a darker tint. Technically, my model is an R9S Stealth.

The R9 barrel is short, as expected, but the 9mm cartridge still probably produces 50% more energy than an equivalent .380 ACP load, along with a heavier bullet. This should lead to better penetration and bullet performance. In the real world, does it make any difference? I think .380 +P loads would narrow that difference even more.

About that +P thing: the R9 should not be run with +P loads. Not designed for it, not recommended.

The trigger is double action perfection. Ultra smooth, with a very sharp, crisp break and zero stacking. I can not tell at all when this trigger will break. Reset is long, and you shoot it like a revolver with quick, smooth, full strokes of the trigger. The magazines are held with a Euro type heel magazine release. Don’t expect to swap mags quickly.

The R9 has good support both from the factory and at the independent Rohrbaugh Forums. The forums are filled with friendly, enthusiastic, helpful and knowledgeable folks. They recommend Speer Gold Dots as carry ammo, and I had zero failures of any kind when running through 50 rounds of this ammo.

Summary: It is a nice pistol clearly built well to tight tolerances. It is as accurate as its pilot. It is easy to carry. It does suffer some of the same flaws as other small, light, powerful weapons: Ammo preferences, difficult and or painful to shoot, reliability issues, and general lack of robustness.

SPECIFICATIONS

Caliber: 9X19mm standard pressure
Barrel: 2.9″
Overall length: 5.2”
Capacity: 6+1
Weight: 15oz unloaded with mag, 18oz loaded with 7 rounds.
Operation: Locking recoil
MSRP: $1195

RATINGS (Out of Five Stars)
Ratings are based on other similar firearms. Final rating is not calculated from the constituent ratings.

Accuracy: * * * * *
For what it is, this thing is as accurate as the user and ammunition allow.

Ergonomics: * * * *
Superb to hold and carry.

Ergonomics Firing: * *
Slippery when firing.

Reliability: * * *
Chokes on some ammo. Reliable in its role firing two magazines once in a while. Owners should find ammo the gun likes and stick to it.

Customization: * * *
Not a lot of options for this niche firearm. Mainly grip replacement.

Overall Rating: * * * *
This pistol fulfills its intended role of allowing 9mm power in the smallest, lightest package possible. Think of it as a 7 round 9mm revolver, without the lack of maintenance.