The Curse of the Itty Bitty 9

I found two more of those little 9mm guns today and I recognized them both as ones I’d been asked about.  I was really excited about having a chance to handle both of these guns, since I do like both Sig and Kimber and I had high hopes that if anyone could pull off this really small 9mm thing one of them could.  However, both companies let me down and while I still want to give all of these guns a try I am not exactly pleased with what I’ve seen so far.

Sig was my biggest disappointment.  I love my P238 so much I couldn’t imagine the P290 being anything less than the awesomeness of the P238 combined with the awesomeness of 9mm.  Instead they made a heavy gun (20.5 ounces) with an unimpressive trigger pull and brick-like ergonomics.  I’m willing to bet it probably shoots better than most of its competitors since the weight will enhance the shooting experience and Sig makes good guns.  I feel like they missed a note here though, I thought the whole point of these super small 9s was to be able to carry a 9mm in deep concealment?

The Kimber Solo Carry Stainless I looked at was equally “meh”.  I expect a lot from Kimber because of how much I love my Pro CDP II.  It really wasn’t a bad gun, it just wasn’t a good gun either.  It had a nice double action trigger and is over a quarter inch wider than the LC9, making it less convenient for deep concealment carrying – which I’m still pretty sure is the point.

At the end of the day I’m beginning to think this whole itty bitty 9 thing is ridiculous.  There is clearly a market there that has a need, or at least a want.  The companies are trying to fill this want but really struggling to make a good gun in the process.  Consumers need to stop demanding something that is not only nearly impossible to make (light, small, powerful and super easy to shoot please!) but also completely unnecessary.  Seriously, put the silly little 9mm down and go buy a Sig P238 and a M&P Compact.

34 thoughts on “The Curse of the Itty Bitty 9”

  1. I don’t know, I think that it’s incredibly cool to see firearm companies try to one-up each other and to see the differences some manufacturers come up with. Some just copy other designs, some go their own way and I think we all win. For YOU the p238 may be the cat’s meow, its a little small for me, so I like something a tad larger and if it’s larger, may as well be 9mm. I’d still like to pocket carry and I do with my PF9. It isn’t the perfect gun, but it’s the gun I’m more likely to have on me instead of the compact Sig 9 or Colt CCO either of which I prefer to shoot.

    I don’t get why gun bloggers feel the need to tell people what they should have. I guess it’s human nature.

    1. I agree that these little 9mm pistols fill a real niche in the market where previously we haven’t had many options. I’m disappointed to hear that the results so far are underwhelming. My opinion is that the low weight issue is overrated. I am happy to carry a slightly heavier gun in exchange for shootability. I have a Kahr MK9 (same size as the PM9 but all steel) that is *much* easier to conceal than my M&P compact, but with it’s weight, is easy enough to shoot that I don’t dread practicing with it. That said, I’m not crazy about the long trigger pull, and I think it’s priced too high for most people (I got a good deal on mine), so I’m interested in the competition. Consumers demanding products that are “impossible to make” is what often drives innovation and we end up with cool new stuff, even if we have to weed out some of the weaker offerings in the process.

      As to Caleb sharing his opinions here, that’s what we come to this blog to read, and the comments are open for discussion, should we disagree. Since we all know that .380 pocket pistols are for women and weenies, Caleb is, of course, wrong, but we should kindly thank him for braving the madness of the SHOT show in our stead anyway 🙂

        1. A heavier gun is great, it’s better to shoot, and if these guns turn into innovation I’m all for it. But looking at the market right now I think people are asking for something out of ignorance rather than need and that frustrates me.

          And I think Caleb would agree that it’s better to hit with one .380 than miss with three mags of 9mm.

  2. When I lived in a state that would let me carry I carried a Glock 26. The width bothered me more than anything so I can see a desire to make a slimmer framed gun like the Kel Tec PF9, Walther PPS, or the Khar guns, but I saw the specs on he Kimber Solo 9 and the gun is actually wider than the Glock 26 but carries 6 rounds? That’s absurd why would I carry that when my Glock gets 10 rounds in a standard mag or 13 with the mags with the finger extensions?

    Also between you and Shelley you are making me want a Sig P238. I don’t really want a tiny .380 but damnit the move you talk about it the more I want it.

  3. I’ve got a Kel-Tec PF9 and I hate shooting with it. I was really hoping to find something that wasn’t as harsh to fire, but still easy to carry. I agree with Shelley that we are pushing the laws of physics here with our requirements (light, small, powerful, and super easy to shoot), but I don’t agree that it is unnecessary.

    If it is hard to shoot, people won’t practice.
    If it is too big/heavy, people won’t carry it.

    1. As I carry a full size 1911 everyday I really don’t understand the “if it’s too big they won’t carry it” argument!
      Only time I carry smaller (Also have a Star 380 and a QFI 25ACP I sometimes carry) is if required attire won’t hide the 1911 or if I’m going to be in a situation where I’m going to be in a crowd and someone grabbing my gun is a concern.

      Hey, a 45 on the hip, 380 in shoulder holster and a 25 in pants pocket isn’t overkill, is it?
      (Yes I like backups….)

  4. Actually the “market” wants a small 9mm that is realiable, low recoil, fits small and large hands, holds 8,9,10 rounds and weights no more than needed to accomplish those wants. No manufacturer has done this yet.

      1. “My Kahr P9 meets th[ose] criteria perfectly.”

        Exactly! This whole post has an odd disconnected feel, since of course the entire category of the compact, lightweight single-stack carry 9 was pioneered by Kahr. And they are SUPERB carry pistols.

        The fact that SIG may have screwed up their effort tells us roughly zero about the viability of the category. The Kahr PM9 exists; has for years now. Ergo the category is *quite* viable, thank you very much.

        Odd post.
        Go try one.

        1. The Kahr, while available, is also priced a lot higher than a lot of people are willing to shell out. It’s a neat gun, but it’s a niche gun. In fact, the existince of the LC9, the new Sig P290, and the Kimber Solo is proof that the Kahr isn’t enough to satisfy the market. Having shot the Kahr’s and LC9, I can categorically say that I’d rather just carry an M&P Compact or Ruger SR9c and get a little bit of extra weight in exchange for a gun that’s got a better trigger and is easier to shoot well.

        2. I have shot a Kahr PM9, and I failed to be impressed. Karh’s 9mm’s are only slightly thinner than an M&P or Glock double stack 9mm, and that’s the cardinal sin of a single-stack 9mm carry design: thickness.

          I want a 9mm that’s roughly the same dimensions as a Walther PPS or Kel-Tec PF9, but without the glaring issues of either. The new Ruger *may* satisfy that need, but I’ve yet to hold or shoot one.

          I currently carry a Walther PPK AIWB. I have to avoid being “made” at work, which requires a thin gun. But I want to upgrade to 9×19…

    1. I actually covered the initial iteration of the Boberg gun back in 2008. As far as I know, it’s still effectively vaporware.

  5. Hey, I realize I may be the old fart around here, but does anyone remember the pistol that was being made back in the early 80’s (possibly earlier) that was a 45ACP pocket gun?
    Manually cycled, it held 4 or 5 rounds if I remember right and was effectively a single shot as it did not cycle, you had to rack the slide after each shot. Kicked like a mule but was a great defensive gun.
    Can’t remember the make or model, just that I wanted one when I heard about them in the early 90’s but the company was already out of business and finding one was next to impossible.

    I’m kind of surprised with the micro gun trend that no-one has revived this idea yet.

      1. THANKS!

        My memory sux these days……..
        I kept thinking Seecamp, but knew that was not the right one.
        Don’t get old, the mind is the first to……….

        Uhm, what was I talking about?
        :-0

  6. I’m very glad to see all the new attempts. What works for me won’t work for you and it’s only in the breadth of offerings we can both be happy.

    Eventually somebody will make a *slim* single stack 9mm with the grace of the P210 but without all the switches. That could get me to retire my PM9.

  7. i think those Boberg Arms pistols are ugly and for carry, the only part they shaved off was the part that didnt really matter. they added more mass to the grip and dovetail area where it would be much harder to conceal. im still thinking the pm9 is the winner but im not gonna rule out the ruger.

  8. Springfield XD9 compact, 10+1 115 gr. JHP, left front pocket, don’t leave home without it.

  9. “Seriously, put the silly little 9mm down and go buy a Sig P238 and a M&P Compact.”

    Really could not have summed things up better myself. I mean, come on, how many more of these “midget” pistols are we going to see before someone says enough and gives us what we really want?

    Myself, all I’m looking for is something like the following:

    – semi-auto
    – chambered for 9mm, 40 S&W, or .45acp
    – single-stack magazine capacity of 6 or 7
    – barrel length of 3.5 inches
    – grip length of 2.5 inches from the bottom of the trigger guard to the base of the grip (ex. G19)

    On the surface of this I really do not see why something like this is such a problem. Or can anyone shed any light on why everyone has this obsession with midget guns beyond either being midgets or machoists when shooting full-power defensive loads?

    1. I don’t think anyone is “obsessed,” I think gun manufacturers are offering options. That’s a good thing, right?

      Kahr makes the guns you are looking for. Check out their PM and CW lines.

  10. For me the bottom line is the Kahr PM9. I carry one daily to back up my Beretta 92D Centurion or my GLOCK 19 when off duty. On rare occasions it is the only pistol on me. This model epitomizes the compact EDC 9mm pistol. I want to see what else it out there and how it stacks up to my PM9, the “standard” for mini 9mm parabellums.

  11. Look at it from the standpoint of a holder of a new CCW permit: They could spend $300 for a P3AT/LCP for pocket carry and another $4-500 for a compact 9mm for IWB carry, or they could spend $350-ish for a Taurus Slim or a Kel-Tec PF-9 or a Ruger LC9 that does 90% of the job of *both* the compact 9mm and the pocket pistol.

    1. We also have to bear in mind that 95% of these guns that get sold will get shot about 10 rounds a year, and thrown in a sock drawer/pocket whatever. The slimline 9mm seems to be the flyweight J-frame of the 21st century.

  12. I’m still waiting for someone to basicly take the Sig p238 and scale it up just enough to handle the 9mm. We aren’t talking a HUGE differance in size as far as I can tell. Springfield did something simular to this with their “EMP” line (coming from the other direction) but they were thinking along the lines of a platform for 9mm, and .40s&w (I have heard that they were also looking at the .45GAP but I have never seen one). Because of this they didn’t shrink the design as much as they could have if they were designing specificly for a 9mm pocket pistol.

    Oh well, I don’t expect it to ever happen, but one can dream.

    s

  13. What I can’t figure out is why Glock won’t produce a single stack version of the G26. It would solve the thickness issue a lot of folks report with the G26/G27, and it would likely be more in line with the weight of the PM9. I’ve heard mixed reports on the reliability of the PM9, but if a single stack 9mm Glock were consistent with the rest of the company’s offering (other than maybe the G36), reliability wouldn’t be an issue.

  14. Shelley, are you sure you were handling a Kimber Solo? It doesn’t have a double action trigger, it is SAO. If you can’t tell the difference then you are not qualified to review this pistol or any other.

  15. I have a Kahr CW9 and it works just fine for me. Small enough to pocket carry, shoots like a much bigger gun, and the smoothest trigger pull I’ve felt on any handgun with the exception of my Smith 586 (I hate their mags with a passion, though. Where’s Mec-Gar when you need ’em?). Sure they’re pricier than most other pocket 9’s (What? A Kel-tec doesn’t shoot as well as a gun that costs twice as much? Quelle surprise!), but A. you get what you pay for, B. that’s why they came out with the CW line, and C. it’s still cheaper to buy one Kahr than both a P238 and an M&P compact.

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