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.