New wave of ‘pocket pistols’ in 9mm getting lots of attention
by Dave Workman
Perhaps it is a cyclic thing, but every few years, gunmakers unveil a new series of compact pistols that grab the public’s attention, and 2011 is no different.
Unveiled at the January Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, new pistols from Kimber, Kahr, Ruger and Taurus debuted, and before the month is out, thousands of gunowners will get the opportunity to see these pistols up close when the National Rifle Association gathers for its annual members’ meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.
Gun Week has had the opportunity to handle these guns, and recently even fire a few rounds through the new Kimber, which is certainly something new for a company that has made its reputation in the handgun field with variations of the famed Model 1911 platform. More about that in a moment!
The common denominator among all of the pistols under current discussion is that they are chambered for the 9mm cartridge, which has become a potent fight-stopper, thanks to modern developments in propellants and projectiles. The ability to safely tuck a compact pistol into a pocket or purse that can come out roaring like a tiger in an emergency has kept more than one armed citizen from becoming a statistic.
This year’s crop also shares ergonomics. Every one of the pistols Gun Week examined during the SHOT Show fit rather comfortably into the palm of the hand. Of course they are not look-alikes, but thanks in no small part to designers who are also obviously shooters, and who listen to other shooters, their new pistols are not likely to punish your hands. That’s no small consideration when one is talking about a pint-sized 9mm. Touch one of these guns off in low light and you will let loose a hell-blazing muzzle flash that, in the event you miss the target, just might scare it to death.
Kimber’s (One Lawton St., Dept. GWK, Yonkers, NY 10705; phone: 800-880-2418; online: kimberamerica.com) new SOLO striker-fired pistol is an all-new design from the ground up. It has a 2.7-inch barrel, dual recoil springs on a full-length guide rod, stainless steel barrel and slide, external ambidextrous thumb safety, 6-round stainless steel magazine and ambidextrous magazine release, smooth trigger pull, three-dot sights dovetailed front and rear, and a lightweight alloy frame that comes either in a matte “stainless” finish or with a black finish.
Designed for use with high performance ammunition, this pistol also wears the KimPro II finish, which is a “phenolic resin” that is self-lubricating and remarkably resistant to the elements.
Weighing a scant 17 ounces empty, there is no reason that this pistol could not easily ride in a pocket or some deep cover holster, including an ankle rig.
Sturm, Ruger (200 Ruger Rd., Dept. GWK, Prescott, AZ 86301; phone: 928-541-8850; online: ruger.com) has unveiled a dandy little semi-auto, the “big” brother to the popular LCP, calling this new entry the LC9. It’s got a 7-round magazine, adjustable three-dot sights, alloy steel slide and barrel, and a grip frame made from high-performance glass-filled nylon that seems tough as nails.
The LC9 has a 3.1-inch barrel, and hits the scale empty at 17.1 ounces. We haven’t had the opportunity to shoot this pistol, but if it is anything like the LCP in .380 ACPwith which we managed to knock around a tin can at 25 yardsthe LC9 is going to win hearts and minds, and in an emergency, a gunfight.
Weighing 20.5 ounces, the Sig Sauer P290 (18 Industrial Dr., Det. GWK, Exeter, NH 03833; phone: 603-772-2302; online: sigsauer.com) has a 6-round magazine, black polymer frame, stainless steel slide finished either in satin/natural or with black Nitron, and SigLite or contrast three-dot sights dovetailed front and rear. Its barrel is 2.9 inches long, and it has an overall length of 5.5 inches. It has a small accessory rail for an optional laser, and one can customize the gun with different grip plates.
We were impressed with the textured grip surface because in the damp Pacific Northwest climate, it’s a good idea to pack a pistol that is not going to slip out of one’s hand due to recoil.
The P290 isn’t a striker-fired pistol because it has an exposed DAO hammer, but so what? It goes “Bang!” every time, and that’s really what counts.
Taurus (16175 NW 49th Ave., Dept. GWK, Miami, FL 33014; phone: 800-327-3776; online: taurususa.com) has unveiled the G2 Slim, a second generation of a pistol we got to evaluate a while back, and it was impressive then. With a polymer frame and 7-round capacity (a 9-round extended magazine is available), the G2 Slim has a blue or matte stainless slide, adjustable rear sight, trigger safety with “Strike Two” capability, ambidextrous magazine release, and the Taurus security system.
Hitting the scale at 19 ounces with the standard empty magazine, the G2 Slim has a 3-inch barrel. Our experience with the first generation gun was terrific. Again, we not only punched tight groups in paper targets, but managed to perforate tin cans out to 25 yards using quality ammunition.
Rounding things out, Kahr Arms (130 Goddard Memorial Dr., Dept. GWK, Worcester, MA 01603; phone: 508-795-3919; online: kahr.com) has unveiled two variations of the PM9 semi-auto, one with a Crimson Trace laser sight, and the other with an external safety and loaded chamber indicator. Our experience with the PM9 has been all good, when using quality ammunition. The pistol fed everything we put in it and was satisfactorily accurate out to 25 yards.
The PM9 has a 6-round flush magazine (a 7-round extended magazine comes with a grip extension), and a 3-inch barrel with polygonal rifling. Overall length of the pistol is 5.3 inches, and it weighs 15.9 ounces with the empty magazine, and the model with the Crimson Trace sight will be slightly heavier. It has a black polymer frame and stainless slide and barrel with drift-adjustable sights.
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