It’s been more than three years since I first reviewed Kel Tec’s diminutive and now somewhat infamous PF-9. My review from November of 2010 was quite favorable, and the PF-9 was my carry gun for the next year. It was a promising little gun once it got broken in, but things started to go wrong after less than six months. I don’t know if my experience is typical, but this gun has completely lost my trust.
As you’ll recall, the PF-9 functioned great with factory ammo but had problems digesting my standard-pressure handloads. There was evidence of light primer strikes, and it took a new firing pin and a lot of elbow grease to solve this problem. I honed the firing pin channel with fine-grit emery cloth wrapped around a cotton swab, and this eventually solved the problem. Mostly.
But his particular malfunction probably wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker, since the PF-9 had worked fine with factory ammo. Until it didn’t.
About 500 rounds in, the PF-9 started having feeding and ejection problems. Sometimes the extractor was too stiffly sprung and wouldn’t snap over the rim of the case; sometimes it was too loose and wouldn’t pull it free from the chamber after firing. I took advantage of Kel Tec’s excellent customer service, and they sent me lots more replacement parts.
I installed new extractors and springs, but it was a PITA: the extractor spring screw controls the tension of the extractor, and it also holds the firing pin under tension against the firing pin spring. All these parts have to be positioned just so before you screw down the extractor spring screw. It takes three or four hands, but I’ve only got two.
The extractor screw must also has to be torqued to just the perfect tightness for proper function, and this tightness is never actually specified in inch-pounds. You’re just supposed to tighten it, but not tighten it too tight. When and if the gun runs reliably, you’ll know you’ve got it perfect.
I never got it perfect, and the extraction problems continued. These intermittent malfunctions happened with enough frequency (a handful of FTEs in every 50 rounds) that I knew I couldn’t depend on this gun for defensive use.
My PF-9 is nothing but a range toy these days, and that’s a problem because it’s one of the world’s crappiest range toys. It has a decent trigger and more accuracy than a subcompact 9mm needs, but it’s no fun for plinking tin cans or running through informal 3-Gun stages. And it’s got a nasty recoil that doesn’t really hurt until you notice that you’re actually bleeding.
Before you finish your third 7-shot magazine you’ll have two bleeding sores on the web of your thumb, where the grip bites you like a rattlesnake. This will put a quick stop to your PF-9 shooting, and don’t expect your friends to shoot it much either. In the entire time I’ve owned it, none of my shooting buddies have ever put more than one magazine through this gun at a time.
So there you go; the PF-9 hasn’t been a complete disaster like the ATI VK-22 with it’s Chiappa-sourced .22 upper half, but it is the most trouble-plagued handgun I’ve ever owned or tested. If you’ve got a knack for tweaking Kel Tec’s tiny niney and you want to try your luck, send me an email and make me an offer.
I’m done with it.