The Truth About George Zimmerman’s Kel Tec PF-9

We’ve published three reviews of the Kel Tec PF-9 over the years, but RF thought it would be a good idea to provide a brief overview for the less gun-savvy readers Googling onto our website in the aftermath of that shooting in Florida. So here’s the quick and dirty run down . . .

The PF-9’s made by Kel Tec. The Florida-based gunmaker didn’t get to the top of the American sales charts by making the world’s best firearms; Kel Tec makes acceptable firearms at a reasonable price. They’re not bad, but they’re not top-tier firearms either.

The Kel Tec PF9 is a self-defense handgun, pure and simple. There are no bells and whistles. For example, there’s no external safety (a switch that must be flicked for the gun to fire), no flared magazine well (a wider opening to make it easier to put bullets/cartridges into the gun under pressure).

The PF-9 is classified as a sub-compact handgun. In other words, it’s an extremely small firearm that’s relatively easy to conceal. As Kel Tec’s website proclaims, the PF-9 is one of the lightest (18.2 oz. fully loaded) and flattest (0.88″ wide) 9mm pistols made.

The PF-9 is what’s called a “double action only” handgun. When you pull the trigger, the movement cocks (pulls backwards) and releases (allows forwards) the hammer (the bit that strikes the cartridge, ignites the charge and sends the bullet out of the muzzle). In that sense, the PF-9 shoots like a revolver (that hasn’t been pre-cocked).

Only worse. The PF-9’s trigger requires less finger effort than most revolvers (5 lbs. of force) but there’s little to no “feel.” You don’t know exactly when the hammer will release. This makes the PF-9 hard to shoot accurately over long distances—unless you have lots of skill and plenty of practice.

That’s not really a problem. Most violent encounters happen at “bad breath” distances; the closer the target the less accuracy required. The PF-9 is more than accurate enough for close-in self-defense.

The PF-9 shoots America’s most popular “caliber” (bullet size): 9mm. Before the recent development of the PF-9 and similar sub-compacts, small guns shot smaller bullets. The 9mm caliber PF-9 generates more muzzle energy (roughly speaking “force”) and shoots a greater variety of less expensive ammunition than the previous generation of sub-compacts.

There are a few drawback to the PF-9’s size . . .

1. The PF-9 tends to get caught-up in clothing when a shooter tries to remove it in a hurry.

Carrying the gun in a proper holster and practicing drawing it from concealment dramatically reduces the chances of this potential problem. But many people who carry handguns this small and (let’s face it) cheap don’t “invest” in a good holster or spend much time practicing unholstering at the range. Even worse there are a number of people who simply pop one of these in a pocket and carry it that way, which makes getting the gun out and into the fight extremely difficult.

2.  Shooting the PF-9 creates considerable recoil: the equal and opposite reaction that occurs when the explosion inside the gun sends the bullet forwards.

The smaller the gun, the harder it is to control the recoil for follow-up shots. Recoil can also be painful; reducing the chances that the PF-9’s owner will practice shooting their gun.

3. Small guns are more likely to malfunction than their bigger brothers.

A shooter has to grip a gun like the PF-9 properly for the firearm to cycle (eject a spent cartridge and load another bullet). Smaller guns are harder to grip than bigger guns. And small guns can be ammo sensitive; failing to feed or fire or eject certain types of ammo.

The Kel Tec PF-9 retails for $333. (Gun stores usually sell the PF-9 for a little under three bills.) A roughly similar Ruger LC9 retails for $443, while a “baby Glock” retails for $438. Again, the Kel Tec has a big advantage in terms of concealability.

In short, the PF-9 is the cheap bastard’s carry piece. Small, concealable and deadly.