I am a small gun guy. I mean, I’m a normal-sized guy who likes small handguns. I have tried to love them. I’ve bought, fired and carried a range of diminutive pistols. I’ve enjoyed shooting and pocketing them. But I’ve come to the conclusion small semi-automatics suck. Let me walk you through it . . .
My first experience with a small pistol: shooting dad’s “Ring of Fire” Jennings J-22 [above]. The striker-fired mouse gun points great and it’s fairly accurate. But what do I know? wikipedia:
The pistol has been claimed to be flawed because of its soft material. Another frequent claim is that the gun malfunctions more often than should be expected. It has also been criticized for its accuracy, with some critics claiming that it could only hit a dinner-plate sized target at about 10 yards at best.
About those malfunctions: I never made it through a magazine without some sort of jam—until I cleaned the J-22, ran 500 rounds through it, and generally tweaked/massaged the thing. Then I finally got through a string of seven several times in a row. I’m surprised it’s never broken; I believe the life of these pistols is less than 1000 rounds.
I have documented my travails with the Kel-Tec P3AT [not shown] previously. The replacement pistol Kel-Tec sent me is not faring much better. Judging by the complaints on the interwebs, my FTF (Failure to Fire) issues are not an isolated occurrence. Sooner or later, small, light, semi-automatic pistols with hot rounds seems to lead to trouble. To wit: TTAG correspondent Tim McNabb dead-in-the-water Diamondback DB9.
Small semis are generally cheap, small, and designed to appeal to the first-time self-defense gun buyer (“Oh, it’s so cute!”). In reality, mouse guns and pocket 9s are best suited as deep concealment or a back-up gun for more experienced pistoleros. Thanks to the small grip, small site radius, light weight and greater recoil, they’re a bitch to shoot.
Notice the shooter of the Rohrbaugh R9 in the video above (not me) eventually stops staging the trigger (i.e. he pulls the lever all the way through in one motion). Notice that even then he can’t put two shots together without adjusting his grip. The R9 is so difficult and painful to shoot that it makes rapid follow-up shots a big, why-is-the-bad-guy-still-standing question mark. And that’s without a discussion of “stopping power.”
Even high-end small guns such as the Rohrbaugh R9 can be . . . finicky. I hear all kinds of warnings from other owners, and the factory. Don’t run too much ammo through it in any one session (or ever). Let it cool between strings. Replace the spring every two hundred rounds. Strip it and clean it every fifty. Oh, watch out for ammo sensitivity.
True story. My Rohrbaugh R9 recently choked on some budget Mexican ammo (hard primers/light strikes). The hecho en Mexico stuff gummed-up the R9’s uber tight tolerance slide. It took a bit of lube and cleaning to get the thing running again.
I know, I know: that’s like putting cheap gas in a Ferrari and bitching when a cylinder gets hung up. Would you drive a Ferrari every day? Would you designate a tiny semi as your every day carry? Point taken?
In my CCW class, there were several diminutive, inexperienced women trying to run Ruger LCPs. The things jammed like crazy on them. None of the LCPs had been previously fired. Who knew if they were lubed? In other words, the guns were as you’d find them in the drawer, pocket or pocketbook of an average owner. And yes, limp-wristing (not holding the gun properly) accounted for at least 100% of the FTFs.
Does that matter? As I said, these pocket semis appeal to newbies who want to carry a gun that’s not too big or scary (for them). A small gun may be better than no gun (and it may not if it stops you from running away when you have the chance), but once the instructor set-up the ladies with revolvers, all was well. They started to shoot consistent groups on the bull’s eye.
I originally titled this “Small Guns Suck.” But honestly, I’ve never had a lick of trouble out of my NAA mini revolver, which is about as small as it gets. It runs like a top, but at least it’s inaccurate . . .
In short: small semis are finicky beasts of compromise. If you choose one for self-defense (and why else would you choose one?), test it, practice with it (low pain threshold shooters need not apply) and be sure you can be confident in it. Or just pay your money and take your chances.
Personally, the more I shoot small pistols, the more I want a bigger pistol (say Glock 26 size) or a revolver in my pocket for when it really counts. Then again . . . Beretta Bobcat in .22LR and a Boberg are both on my wish list. Danny?