By Dan Thurs
Armscor/Rock Island has made some fantastic firearms over the years and I’ve had the pleasure of shooting several of them. But recently I got to try out something a little different…their new AL9.0 9mm revolver. Why a 9mm revolver? Many gun owners like to simplify and own a range of guns that shoot the same caliber. That makes stocking ammunition a lot simpler.
Then there’s the fact that 9mm is incredibly popular and widely available. Well, it was when we weren’t in the middle of a historic ammo shortage thanks to a pandemic, civil unrest, all those first-time gun buyers and the rest buying up all the stock they can to sell it at a profit. Yeah, I’m looking at you, gun show guys, selling a boxes of 50 FMJ rounds for $30+.
That said, like a lot of well-prepared gun owners, I have a good supply of 9mm ammunition on hand. So off to the range I went with the Czech-made AL9.0. But before I get into that, let’s take a closer look at the revolver.
The Armscor AL9.0 is perfect for those who may have issues shooting a semi-automatic handgun like those with smaller hands or medical issues like carpal tunnel. The lower recoil of 9mm ammunition along with the 1.5-pounds unloaded weight of the AL9.0 means less felt recoil for the shooter.
Testing the trigger pull in double action resulted in a nearly an eleven pound trigger pull. The Armscor officially rates the DA pull at 11.5 and 13 pounds.
The full double action pull distance is on the long side at a hair over half an inch. I shot several rounds using double action and my accuracy suffered because of the long, heavy pull. That said, the trigger is notably smooth, with no stacking.
The Armscor lists the single action pull weight as between 4 and 6.5 pounds. I got an average 3 pounds 10.4 ounces and, of course, a much shorter, crisp pull distance of only 3/64th of an inch. As you’d expect, my single action accuracy was much improved.
The AL9.0’s rubber grip fit my hand really well and I received no complaints while at the range after letting several other people try it out, too. All three of my fingers fit the finger-grooved grip very comfortably.
While rubber grips can be slippery when your hands start to sweat, I didn’t have any issues due to AL9,0’s nubbed grip texture (the weather was mild for my range trips). The grip felt comfortable in my hand, not bulky or too small like other handguns I’ve used over the years.
The sights are much better than many other revolver sights I’ve seen. The ramped front blade fills much of the rear notch when viewed at arm’s length.
One issue I had with the sight is the color of the front ramp. The first time I shot the AL9.0 all my rounds were tended high and I couldn’t figure out why. I started to think the sights were out of adjustment. Nope. The problem was the center of the targets I was using were the same bright orange color as the front sight. Once I looked a little closer I saw the thin black line above the orange and was able to adjust.
Any other color on a target won’t be an issue.
While the front sight is fixed, the rear sight allows for windage and elevation adjustment. My test pistol was dead-on right out of the box.
One thing to note is when I removed the AL9.0 from the box, there was a target included from when the firearm was test fired. This round of shots was free hand at a distance of 30 feet. The one shot to the left on the 7 was done in double action. Every time I used the AL9.0 in DA I had the same results, with rounds tending to the left.
The all-steel cylinder’s chambers have some tight tolerances, so be sure to clean your AL9.0. You can also see a raised section inside of each cylinder. Those are there to hold the 9mm round in place without the need for a moon clip. If the cylinders were cut all the way though, the round would slide straight through.
The Armscor AL9.0 comes with a pair of moon clips. These hold the semi-auto rimless 9mm rounds at the groove around the head allowing you to easily load six rounds at once. Yes, you can load the AL9.0 without the moon clips and the firearm will function without issue. The problem then comes when you need to remove the brass.
Because the brass tends to expand when fired, they will not all fall out. You’ll need a pencil or cleaning rod to do this one case at a time. That’s why most shooters use moon clips. Pushing on the rod at the front of the cylinder will easily eject all the cases at once.
How did the AL9.0 perform at the range? Pretty well actually. I had my wife shooting for a while. She has problems with her hands so a semi-auto is out of the question. In fact, none of the people I had shoot the AL9.0 had any issues.
The well-designed grip along with the weight of the gun, just a hair under 1.5 pounds and the lower recoil of the 9mm ammunition we used from Armscor was very easy on the hands. The 124gr ammunition from Armscor I used is advertised at about 1090fps at the muzzle. But I was seeing velocities of just over 1000 fps at the muzzle. I’m sure this is due to the gasses escaping at the cylinder gap. On average, only 10fps was lost over 12 yards.
The AL9.0 functioned every time I pulled the trigger. As I mentioned above, the orange front sight was an issue when shooting at orange targets. The other issue was loading. The loaded moon clips went in without issue. However, the rounds didn’t drop into the chambers all the way every time, preventing the cylinder being closed. I suspect the cylinders needed to be further cleaned. The tight tolerances I’m sure play a role in this. With a little push of your thumb and the rounds dropped all the way. Other times all six rounds dropped in without issue.
As for carry, the Rock Island AL9.0 comfortable fits in leather holsters that accommodate Smith K-frame wheel guns. I haven’t found any custom molded Kydex options yet.
Specifications: Rock Island Armory AL9.0 Revolver
Capacity: 6 rounds
Overall Length: 6.75 inches
Overall Width: 1.5 inches
Overall Height: 4.09 inches
Barrel Length: 4 inches
Weight: 1.5 pounds unloaded
Sights: Fixed front, adjustable rear
Twist: 1:17.9 right hand twist
Ratings (out of five stars):
Style and Appearance * * * *
It’s a revolver. While I know some people don’t care for revolvers, I do. The AL9.0’s attractive, functional blued finish looks looks really good here. The only reason I didn’t give the full five stars is because I prefer stainless, but that’s just me.
I looked for accessories for the AL9.0 and all I found were moon clips. Perhaps this is because this is a newer firearm. Even holsters seem to be hard to find, though leather K-frame holsters seem to work well.
Reliability * * * * 1/2
After putting a few hundred rounds through the AL9.0, we had zero issues. It went bang every time we pulled the bang switch. When a firearm I’m testing functions as intended, every time without a single failure, it gets the full five stars. Half a star off here for the occasional problem of rounds not dropping easily from the cylinder.
Accuracy * * * *
The AL9.0 itself is very accurate, far more than minute of bad guy at 30 feet, especially in single action.
Overall * * * *
The Rock Island AL9.0 revolver firearm is a well-made wheel gun at an affordable price. Given its good sights, low recoil and excellent accuracy, the AL9.0 makes a good choice for carry or home defense for those who want to stick to 9mm ammunition.