Monday, February 23, 2009

Kel Tec PF-9 vs. Ruger LCP

I've been casually looking for a concealed carry weapon for quite some time. There are quite a few choices out there in small guns, but many aren't necessarily light. Two of the smallest are the Kel Tec PF-9 (9mm) and the Ruger LCP (380 Auto).

I've only owned these for a matter of days, so I can't speak to their long-term reliability, but initial impressions are quite favorable for both.

First, the Ruger LCP. It is chambered in the 380 Auto, and the clip holds six rounds, with the potential to have a seventh round carried in the chamber. There are obviously two things going for this gun: it's a well-constructed name-brand gun, and it's one of the smallest guns available. If your jeans are the least bit baggy, you can easily conceal the gun in your front pocket. The Ruger weighs in at 9.4oz (empty).

At the range, I found the gun simple to shoot as there are no safeties. Rack the slide, pull the trigger, and it goes bang. I can barely get two of my fingers on the grip, and I had a hard time holding on during recoil. The gun was usually tipped up slightly in my hand after each shot. I put a couple of clips worth of ammo through it, and I soon became comfortable with more of a rapid fire.

The sight picture was the hardest thing for me to get used it. It was obviously made with small sights to keep from snagging on a holster, purse, or pocket lining. For any kind of target practice though, the LCP's sites are practically useless.

Note that on the photo above, the gun is actually all black, and the "white" half-circle at the top is just a reflection from the camera's flash. What you see is what you get - there's not much.

So far I have about 50 rounds of ammo through it with no jams or other extraction problems.

Next for the Kel Tec PF-9, chambered in a 9mm Luger. The PF-9 clip holds seven rounds, with the potential for the eighth in the chamber. As you'll see later, this is a somewhat larger gun, weighing in at 12.7oz (empty).

Just like the Ruger, and most other carry guns, there are no safeties on the Kel Tec. Rack the slide, pull the trigger, and it goes bang. With my large hands, I found the PF-9 more managable than the LCP, although they both snap pretty good.

The sight picture is much better than the Ruger's. You actually have three white dots, with more or less standard sized sights. With the little bit I've used the gun, I don't feel that the larger sights would be detrimental to its carry-ability.

It is quickly apparent that the quality of the Kel Tec is just not up the Ruger's standards. When you first examine a Kel Tec in the store, you'll notice that the seams in the plastic are pretty rough. This seems to just be a cosmetic issue, until you get out to the range.

Not only is there a seam on the frame, there's also one down the middle of the trigger. I found that it was quite abrasive on my trigger finger. I have noticed that Kel Tec offers a smooth trigger on their website for about $10 that would probably be well worth it. I plan on first trying a Dremel with a buffing wheel to see if I can clean up the edges myself.

I only have about 35 rounds through the Kel Tec, but so far have had no jams or extraction problems.

When you put the two guns side by side, the size difference quickly comes out. Neither are much larger than my wallet.

Here they are laying on top of each other.

Although it's not as pronounced in this photo, the Ruger is noticably thinner than the Kel Tec.

There is very little physical difference between the 380 Auto and 9mm Luger. The 9mm won't physically fit into the 380's clip, but the 380's will fit into the 9mm clip. Obviously I'm not suggesting that you even attempt to shoot the wrong cartridge in your gun, I'm just pointing out that if you're carrying both calibers to the range, BE CAREFUL! The 9mm is on the left, 380 is on the right.

At the range, I set an old 2500 page catalog up to shoot at. The pages are very thin, similar to a telephone directory. I basically fired three shots at the book. From top to bottom: a 22LR (CCI Mini Mag, from a Sig Mosquito), a 9mm, and a 380. You may notice a fourth hole near the top - it was a 9mm shot that came out the top of the book so I re-did it.

After a thousand pages, all holes are very apparent.

At two thousand pages, the 22LR and the 380 are starting to slow down. The 9mm shot(s) are still pushing through.

The 22LR Mini Mag stopped around page 2200. The 380 didn't make it as far, at only 2150 pages. Obviously the 380 made a much bigger hole. The 9mm pushed all the way through the 2500 pages, and was flattened out against the steel back-stop.

As I said, the 380 made a larger hole than the 22LR, although I should qualify that by saying that the 380 (below, right) was basically un-deformed, whereas the 22LR had fragmented into oblivion. The 9mm (below, left) mushroomed out to about quarter-sized. Note that none of these rounds were hollow point - all round-nosed.

By comparison, my .454 Cassull with 300 grain bullets completely destroyed the 2500 page catalog.. :-)

My wife has shot both guns and considers them managable (though she much prefers the 22LR). With the guns brand new and not yet broken in, she struggles with both of their slides, but the Ruger is noticably easier for her.

Both guns are double-action only devices, and consequently have long trigger pulls. I don't have a gauge, but the Kel Tec seems to be somewhat easier. Those who have shot both side-by-side agree that they like the Kel Tec's pull better.

Either gun will set you back about $350-$375 new. If you can handle the small size (that is you have small hands), then I'd probably go with the Ruger. If you're grip is larger, the Kel Tec is definitely my preference.


keith said...

thanks for the comparison!

Ned said...

Thanks a lot for posting this. I've been trying to decide between these two guns and this was really helpful. Would be interesting to know now that you have some trigger and carry time with both if you have any new observations.

Zack said...

I'm still very happy with my Kel-Tec PF-9. It's still the smallest, lightest 9mm that will fit my (large) hand.

I had it out at the range last week, and had a jam or two, but it was on some odd-ball low powered ammo that I had picked up at the store recently.

It still isn't a "fun" gun to shoot, but that isn't what I bought it for. I've been carrying it some lately in the ConcealmentT's, which I really like. My wife can't even tell when I'm carrying.

I'm not sure if you caught my other posts regarding the Kel-Tec. Here's links if you missed them.

Kel-Tec PF-9 Update

Kahr CW9 and Kel-Tec PF-9

I just got back from a gun show, where I saw a Sig Sauer P238. It looked like a nice, quality gun that would fit my hand, but it's a .380 ACP, weighs a couple ounces more than the PF-9, and is nearly twice the price. I have a feeling that my uncle will be buying one soon - if he does I'll post some info on it.

ch3no2 said...

If you haven't checked out the Taurus PT 709 called the 'Slim' then you haven't seen the BEST concealed carry 9 mm on the planet. Not only is it better finished than the Kel-Tec, it also has "second strike" capability. Plus, it has safeties that can be used or ignored as deemed necessary by the user. It's also available in blue, stainless and titanium on polymer frame. Compare the Taurus 709 against the Ruger LCP for physical size and you'll see that the difference is minimal. Might as well opt for the 9 mm with it's more potent power and easier to find ammo. That's just my two cents. But, since all options are open to the CHL carrier, I opt for the Taurus Millennium 745 in stainless. It's a pocket auto chambered in .45 acp. It's the best of all worlds.

Zack said...

I've looked at the Taurus Slim guns, but they roughly 30% heavier than my Kel-Tec. Considering that it's strapped to my side right now, I'd have to say that I'm appreciating the < 13oz (empty) weight.

I do like the safeties on the Slim's, and I'm not going to argue the cosmetic finishing.

Zack said...

Actually closer to 45% more weight between the 709 Slim and the Kel-Tec PF-9.

ch3no2 said...

Maybe I came on too strong in favor of the Brazilian Taurus label. The proudly made in the USA Kel-Tec PF-9 is a great carry / utility weapon no doubt. As a matter of fact, I bought one just two days ago to add to my growing handgun collection. I was impressed with what I read about it. I'm learning to like it for what it is.....a lightweight dependable personal defense weapon of decent caliber and power. Mine is loaded with Hornady Critical Defense 115 gr FTX rounds right now. It's sitting quietly beside me here at the compooter in a zippered leather pouch. It's a darn good weapon regardless of the price. And, the online YOUTUBE comparison of the Kel-Tec PF-9 against the Kahr PM-9 is longwinded but highly informative.

ch3no2 said...

I've got a Smyrna Shooter Supply pocket / wallet convertible holster ordered for the PF-9. If it works out like I think it will, I'll be alternating carry between the Kel-Tec PF-9 and Tauruse 745 Pro. Not that the Ruger LCP .380 loaded with Double Tap or Buffalo Bore ammo is a pipsqueak by any means. But, bigger is better when it comes to defense carry. The severity of the anticipated threat determines the caliber I carry at the time. I just wish the Kel-Tec had a better finish to the slide. Everything else is perfect.

glasscityandy said...

A magazine holds cartridges for an auto loading handgun. A clip holds rounds together to be fed into a magazine for rifles.