Gun Review: Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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+.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

I have a range of guns chambered in 9mm. (Dan Thurs for TTAG)

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

The AL9.0’s adjustable rear sight (Dan Thurs for TTAG)

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Off hand at ten yards (Dan Thurs for TTAG)

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.

Rock Island Armory AL9.0 9mm Revolver

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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.

Dan Thurs for TTAG

Dan Thurs for TTAG

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

Caliber: 9mm
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
Grips: Rubber
Sights: Fixed front, adjustable rear
Twist: 1:17.9 right hand twist
Finish: Blued
MSRP: $599

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.

Customization *
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.

 

 

comments

  1. avatar Keanu says:

    Cool, now if I can only find some ammo for it without an insane price.

    1. avatar Dallas austin says:

      Ruger 9mm sp101 or lcr costs
      Less

      1. avatar GaleG says:

        Say What dallas Austin???

        What are you smoking?

        Both of those guns have a MSRP higher than $599!!

        $719 for the SP101 and $669 LCR.

        We can probably expect a street price with a similar drop with this revolver.

        .

        1. avatar Art out West says:

          The Rock Island Armory .38sp. revolvers usually have a street price around $225-250 (who knows these days).

          That said, these are obviously totally different revolvers though they have the same brand name.

          The .38 revolvers are made in the Philippines and are kind of Colt clones. These are made in the Czech Republic and I suspect that they are rebranded CzechPoint Alpha-Proj guns. They have more of a Smith style cylinder release.

          The inexpensive Philippines made guns (revolvers and 1911s) seem to have a pretty good reputation. I haven’t heard much about the Czech revolvers .

        2. avatar Charlie the wonder dog. says:

          Forgive twin cities up there, he is using democrat math.

  2. avatar Umm . . . says:

    “. . . a raised section inside of each cylinder . . . 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.”

    That’s just what chambers for 9mm (which headspaces on the case mouth, and is also tapered) look like. If the cylinders were cut all the way through, they wouldn’t be chambered for 9mm. Even with moon clips, the case walls would expand to base diameter, and the bullet would get a rough start in the forcing cone.

  3. avatar I Haz A Question says:

    I’ll be the first one to say I’m all for variety and innovation, but I would need more reviews and stats before I can lend my support to this. Granted, my experience with revolvers centers primarily around the classic .38/.357, but if the 9mm cartridge is designed to be fired from a closed chamber, will it effectively perform from a revolver? The longer cases of the .38/.357 allow for greater powder grain volumes, overcoming any minimal “blowout” loss from between the cylinder and barrel. The 9mm’s case is rather short and contains an appropriately smaller amount of powder, so will any blowout result in unacceptable loss in muzzle velocity?

    Genuine question. I’d be interested in reading a performance review on this revolver.

    1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

      Clarification: I know there are basic stats mentioned in the article, but I’d like to see a comprehensive review.

    2. avatar Specialist38 says:

      9mm performs well from a revolver. Short or long barrel.

      Pocket guns and gear tested a Ruger LCR 9mm and got higher velocities than with small 9s likemthe shield.

      I have shot them from Ruger Blackhawks. The 9 bests 38 special by a wide margin and is sort of a 357 lite.

      One reason to own a convertible Blackhawk. Garbage disposal for 9mm reloads that wint function in a pistol.

      1. avatar I Haz A Question says:

        Interesting. Link?

        1. avatar Tim says:

          https://www.ruger.com/products/newModelBlackhawkConvertible/models.html

          My dad has an Old Model (pre-1973) .357/9mm convertible. The 9mm shoots pretty well out of it, and he reloads that because 9mm range brass is plentiful. Although I’d rather reload .38 Special than 9mm any day!

        2. avatar Miner49er says:

          Yes, .38 and .357 are straight wall and very easy to reload, but 9 mm… That darn taper! And ‘rimless‘.

          I’ve always wanted a Blackhawk convertible, does the difference between .355 and .357 cause an accuracy problem?

        3. avatar Specialist38 says:

          And the different in bullet diameter in the Blackhawk makes no difference in my hands at 20-30 yards..

          However, shooting 100-150 yards, the lighter 9mm bullets are more erratic than a 158 grain 38 or 357. Dunno how the 147 9mms would do, I dont load those.

        4. avatar Tim says:

          > Does the difference between .355 and .357 cause an accuracy problem?

          Surprisingly, he doesn’t see much if any difference (for as well as he shoots) between the 9mm (.355) and .38 (.357) diameters. He even claims that the 9mm shoots better than .38’s out of it, although that may be apples and oranges.

          One issue that may be specific to his gun is that he ran into issues with *some* 9mm range cases not fully chambering in the cylinder, due to the sizing die not sizing the lower part of the case enough. The solution was to run the 9mm cases through a Lee Bulge Buster die using a 9mm *Makarov* Lee FCD once. This also had the effect of knocking about 0.001-0.002″ off the rim diameter. It seems like a lot of work for little gain, but he had lots of time on his hands.

          As a counterpoint, I own the .45 Colt/.45 ACP Blackhawk, and rarely use the .45 ACP cylinder since I reload .45 Colt. It worked fine, and the 7.5″ barrel (even with the cylinder gap) showed an increase of 100-150fps over a 4″ semiauto. I can’t say the $80 extra was worth having both cylinders, but having the *potential* to shoot both was nice.

      2. avatar jwm says:

        My brother has one of those Blackhawks. Shoots very well. And he was forced to pistol whip a bad guy with it once. Blackhawks work good as hell for that purpose.

        1. avatar Miner49er says:

          Those Blackhawks are pretty stout hog legs…

          One of my first guns was a new model super Blackhawk, 7 1/2 inch. Very accurate and correct grip frame and weight to make the recoil somewhat manageable even with full power loads. Of course, it was a real pleasure with .44Spl.

    3. avatar hawkeye says:

      Paul Harrel did a review of the Ruger LCR in 9mm. I have one identical to the one he reviewed, and I really like it.

    4. avatar Mark H says:

      Generally speaking, the velocity lost due to pressure escaping from the cylinder gap is offset by the difference in how revolver and auto barrel length is measured. Autopistols and break open actions include the chamber in the barrel length, while revolvers do not.

    5. avatar Kevin says:

      That’s a really good question. I would think the same principle would apply to 9mm pistols that bleed off some of the gas to mitigate recoil, like the Walther CCP and HK P7, right? In the case of the revolver and these particular pistols, less than 100% of the energy from the burning powder actually pushes the bullet. If it’s 99%, I guess it doesn’t really make a difference, but it would be interesting to know what percentage that is.

    6. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      I Haz a Question,

      The semi-auto versus revolver cartridge will not matter when comparing a high-pressure cartridge such as 9mm Luger to a low-pressure cartridge such as .38 Special. Even though a .38 Special case has significantly more propellant capacity, it is still limited to low pressure. Thus, 9mm Luger makes up for the reduced case capacity with much more energetic propellant which produces higher chamber pressures and higher muzzle velocities.

      Of course .357 Magnum is also a high-pressure cartridge: coupled with its increased case capacity it will generate even higher pressures and hence higher muzzle velocities than 9mm Luger.

      1. avatar Umm . . . says:

        True (.357), as long as you have the barrel length to burn it. In a snubbie, every grain of that increased case capacity is wasted on blast, flash, and recoil.

        1. avatar LarryinTX says:

          A few months back, American Rifleman published shooting results on 4″ and 6″ Colt Pythons, the differences in velocity were barely noticeable, like 20-40 fps with 3 different loadings. You’d need a REALLY short barrel to make a .357 in the same category of power with a 9mm. Maybe 1/2″, against a 6″ 9mm. 9mm is a bean shooter compared to .357.

        2. avatar Umm . . . says:

          LarryinTX,
          Not doubting the results you’re citing, just saying both those lengths are cartridge-appropriate for .357. See https://www.luckygunner.com/lounge/revolver-velocity-vs-barrel-length/ for snubnose results.

          Remember also that a .357 revolver is at least 1 5/8″ longer, breechface to muzzle, than the published barrel length. Compare with BBTI’s velocity figures for 9+P (both predicted and actual) – and they didn’t even test the new, hot stuff (Underwood, DoubleTap, Buffalo Bore). Admittedly, it wasn’t perfectly comparable because the 9s they tested were autos, and don’t leak.

          Or just shoot a .357 snub and observe firsthand where that powder is being burned. Been there; done that (one of the nasty Scandium handbeaters no less) – thank Heaven for consignment sales!

        3. avatar jwtaylor says:

          Larry, there’s a whole world a difference in a 2-2 1/2″ .357 Magnum and a 4″ gun. The magnum really needs more than 3″.

  4. avatar DrDKW says:

    Not a big fan of 9mm wheel-guns, since I fired a friend’s Charter Arms Pit-bull. It had the nastiest handgun recoil I’ve ever felt.
    As for the “all steel cylinder”, for $600, the rest better be steel too.
    As for “affordable”, The stainless S&W bodyguard I got last year for $350 was more affordable.

    1. avatar Rad Man says:

      Sure wish I had a 9mm with reduced capacity that took longer to reload.
      Sorry, pistol caliber revolvers make so sense to me.

      1. avatar ChoseDeath says:

        Well, they’re good if you have issues that preclude you from using a semi for some reason, they’re cool if you’re a collector, and some people just shoot revolvers better. As to why you aren’t just buying revolver calibers, aside from collectors I don’t know. I have a shit ton of 10mm ammo from when I owned a Glock 20, sold the gun because I couldn’t shoot that thing to someone who could, and solved my 10mm ammo issue by buying a Smith and Wesson model 610. 🤷‍♂️

        1. avatar Art out West says:

          Radman doesn’t appreciate revolvers in general. That’s ok.

          I on the other hand seem to like almost all guns (except perhaps the very spendy ones).

      2. avatar De Facto says:

        The virtues are:
        (1) a common, affordable round. If I didn’t reload I wouldn’t shoot my Dan Wesson very often, even shooting .38’s it is still significantly more expensive than 9mm. Cheap, readily available commercial ammo is a strong argument on it’s own merits.
        (2) If you do reload, 9mm components are cheaper (by a little bit) and more readily available than .357. You can also load extremely light target loads that would never cycle a semiauto.
        (3) out of a snubnose 9mm outperforms .38 special, and .357 is mostly wasted out of a snubby.
        (4) got a batch of iffy ammo that your pistol doesn’t like(looking at you Aluminum Case CCI Blazer)? The revolver won’t care.

        The thing I love most is that it’s there as an option. Not every gun has to be minmaxed into the perfect weapon. Some are just fun. Heck I would argue that Revolvers already fall into that category. I see this as a similar niche to PCC’s. Fun training tool and a hoot in their own right.

        1. avatar enuf says:

          Very true!

          My old, beat up, but still shoots fine Harrington & Richardson 999 Sportsman nine shot top-break in .22LR fits that bill perfectly. Only use I have for it is plinking. But wouldn’t sell it for anything.

          It’s just too much fun!!! 🙂

    2. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      “Not a big fan of 9mm wheel-guns, since I fired a friend’s Charter Arms Pit-bull.”

      Charter Arms wheel-guns aren’t exactly of the highest quality, and tend to be lightly-built. That adds up to not looking or feeling very impressive and having a bit of a nasty bite.

      You really ought to take a look at the Ruger version of this, it feels quite nice in the hand. A very solid feel.

      A wheelgun in 9 is on the list of guns I want to get, for the reasons Specialist .38 mentioned. Ammo compatibility with other 9’s I own, and range disposal…

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        And used to be cheaper fun…not so much in the current ammo drought.

        1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

          I have a bad feeling this is gonna be another 2012-type dry spell.

          *IF* Trump wins, things will ease up in 9 months or so. If he doesn’t, 60 cents a round for 9mm is gonna be cheap.

          It’ll be a dollar a round for 9mm for a minimum of *5* fucking years, best case, 9 or 10 years, worst case…

    3. avatar enuf says:

      I would not care to fire off magnum or +P loads in a small handgun.

      However ….

      My Charter Arms snubbie is an older model OFF DUTY. A .38 Special, no +P about it. Gets a bit sore on the hand with enough practice, but I like it and it’s a trustworthy backup piece.

      It is neve my main carry gun.

  5. avatar Serpent_Vision says:

    Seems they could have shortened the cylinder if it was designed from the start to be a 9mm.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      And then the barrel would have to extend and inch into the frame.

      Or ….they’d have to manufacture a frame specific to the 9mm.

      Not gonna happen. Pawn your car and get a Korth if you want a shorty cylinder.

      Or buy a GP100 in 9.

      1. avatar Art out West says:

        At one time I think Taurus made a .380 acp revolver with a very short cylinder. Very snubby revolver

  6. avatar Specialist38 says:

    Dan…thanks for an actual gun review.

    1. avatar KreebleN'Krag says:

      Amen!

  7. avatar RidgeRunner says:

    If I get a Rock Island, and I will, it ain’t gonna be a revolver, nor a 9mm.

    1. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

      then it will be pilipino, not czech.

  8. avatar Chris says:

    The only thing I remember about RIA is that they’re jerks. I picked up their Mapp-MS a couple years back and the recoil spring was under spec, so much that the pistol was basically useless. So after emailing them, they wanted me to pack up the whole gun and send it to them. Couldn’t I just send the spring? No, we need the whole thing. Long story short, I picked one up from Wolff Springs for something stupid like $4 and it’s been working ever since.

  9. avatar M10 says:

    @Dan, I noticed this is an Alfa-Proj revolver which appears to be the same brand imported by CzechPoint USA. Im wondering if they moved distribution to RIA? Alfa makes some great .22 revolvers that CzechPoint never seemed to be able to stock.

    Also, you list the barrel length as 4” but that sure looks like a 3” model…

  10. avatar enuf says:

    As much as humanly possible buy American designed and made guns from American owned factories staffed by Americans.

    Nothing against Rock Island Armory, but they just ain’t local enough is all.

  11. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    The single-action trigger pull listed here is… rather stiff.

    For comparison, the single-action trigger pull on an untuned S&W revolver is 2.75 lbs or thereabouts.

  12. avatar The Crimson Pirate says:

    “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’s a market mechanism for allocating goods to those who need them most. People like me with 9mm still on hand would still be buying it at $10-$15 a box. At $30 a box I’ll pass, but the young lady that just bought her first handgun will buy it at that price because she has none. So the price ensures that the one who needs it most gets it and the whiners who do not need it don’t get it.

    The biggest factors affecting price are supply and demand. As supply decreases due to increased demand without a corresponding increase in production then prices rise. I really wish they would teach economics in grade school. But given the state of education today they would probably teach Marxism.

    1. avatar Art out West says:

      Well said. Like you,. I have a fair bit of 9mm ammo, but would like to have more. I would buy more at $8-12 a box. At $30 a box, I can wait . The person who needs it worse can buy it. Hopefully we will all learn to plan ahead in the future.

  13. avatar James Ivy says:

    I’ve had there M200 and it was a great revolver minus the hokster options for a 4″ colt d frame, had to pay $150 for a custom galco combat master, nearly as much as the revolver at $170 new. It locked up dead on no wheel marks ever in thousands of rounds and ran my cowboy cast 150gr rn’s under Trail boss like a champ, I could make a can dance at 30yds more often than not

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