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I've been looking at something a little lighter to carry than this old Firestar that I've been lugging around for years, and a friend of mine has been looking for a pocket pistol (being too much of a wimp to belt-carry his CZ PCR). He's looking at the Kel-Tec P3AT (.380) and I've been looking at the Kahr PM9 (or P9 Covert) or the XD-9 SC. (Which is why I've been hanging around here, putting my feet up on the furniture, setting cold drinks down on the end tables, and otherwise annoying the natives even though I don't actually own an XD.)

Today we finally made it to a range that rents all three pieces and put them to the test. Not a very extensive test -- the range only allows the use of their overpriced ammo in their rental guns -- just 50 rounds each. Enough to form some definite impressions, though. We mostly shot these pistols at 12-15 feet (with a few strings at about 20 feet). All shooting was offhand (standing, no rest), both one and two-handed.


My friend liked the Kel-Tec more than I did. It shot better than I expected, and I was able to get some groups good enough for the intended purpose, but the .380 round was very snappy in that small package. The tiny, slick, grips were not much help in maintaining control. The trigger pull was very long, and stacked up pretty bad at the end.

Worse than that, though, in fifty rounds we had two failures. The second shot failed to feed, which was easily corrected, and the trigger failed once, which was not. It wasn't a dud round; the hammer was not being operated by the trigger at all. Racking the slide to chamber the next round fixed it, so I'm not sure exactly what was going on, but I think that I short-stroked the trigger and something in the internals was thrown off. It bothers me that a personal defense weapon could be so badly jammed by short-stroking the trigger.

Ultra-concealable design: +
Shoots something moderately more effective than an irritating spray: +
Hard to control in rapid fire: -
May stop working: --


Subjective recoil in the PM-9 was similar to that of the P3AT. Stouter cartridge (Remington UMC 9mm FMJ), but a somewhat heavier pistol. Noticably more accurate than the Kel-Tec (better sights, longer sight radius), but still hard to control in rapid fire. Groups were 'minute of thorax.' A few shots in the X, a few scattered around the paper; like that. Tiny grip did not help. I've heard people say they fire these as well as a full-sized pistol, but they must have tiny rubber G.I. Joe hands, with kung-fu grip.

Trigger pull was long, but smoother than the Kel-Tec's. Pistol was top-heavy, but this did not seem to effect shooting.

One failure to go into battery, when chambering the first round (pulling the slide back by hand). A tap on the back of the slide fixed it and the problem did not come up in magazine changes, when using the slide release.

Very light and trim package. My friend found it too big for comfortable pocket carry (which is out for me anyways, with all the crap I keep in my pockets), but it would be very comfortable in an IWB holster.

Light and concealable design: +
Shoots a round that might effect an adult human being: +
Hard to control in rapid fire: -


The XD-9 SC.... Well. That is one chunky monkey, isn't it? Laid next to the above two pistols it looks HUGE. Like it should come with wheels and a crew of gun bunnies. The tall slide and long trigger guard add to the impression of blocky massiveness.

Set next to my old Firestar, though, it's not so bad. (The Firestar for a long time was considered a very compact 9mm.) It's almost exactly the same height and length (though proportioned differently; more height in the slide, for example), but slightly thicker. About half a pound lighter, though, and with a 10 round magazine compared to 7 for the old-school slab of Spanish steel.

Trigger pull seemed shorter than the other two pistols, but that may just have been me getting used to the longer pulls. Crisp let-off. The first few rounds were grouped very roughly low and right, then I got the feel for the piece and shot out the X with the last five rounds in the mag. Didn't measure it, but that would have been a five-round group, offhand at 12', under 1.5". Very respectable for a sub-compact pistol.

The grip was thick and comfortable, but at a somewhat odd length for my hand. My pinky didn't quite know whether to ride half on the lower lip of the grip/magazine, or try to curl underneath. Rapid fire was very controllable for a subcompact. Accuracy was significantly better than the other pistols. To quote my friend, "It's not even close." (Technically I suppose that's not exactly correct. I'm sure that in slow-fire, from a rest, there would be little difference at least between the Kahr and the XD. Shooting quickly, offhand, though, the difference in controllability was obvious.)

The only failture with the XD was at the end of the range session. (We fired 50 rounds through the Kel-Tec, then 25 each through the Kahr and XD at the beginning, then did some other shooting before putting another 25 each through the two 9mms.) As with the Kahr above, the XD failed to go into battery once when racking the slide to chamber the first round. The Kahr did it at the beginning of the session, though, and the XD did it at the end, when my shooting hand was so sore and tired that I could barely close it around the grip (I'd bruised it up the day before, working around the house) and I 'rode' the slide a bit when releasing it. To check, I immediately unloaded the piece and tried it again, being careful to release the slide properly. It worked fine then.


Very chunky for a subcompact: -
Shoots a round that might effect an adult human being: +
A lot of shooter in a small package: +


The XD SC is the obvious choice for putting rounds into the 10 ring...or wherever you need to put them. Far and away a better shooter than the other two pistols. But damn that is one chunky little monkey.....
 

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Fail to eject or feed in a Kel-Tec 3AT is usually due to limpwristing. A death grip is required. Also required for that gun is the Hogue Mini Handall grips and some Magazine Finger Grip Extensions. I didn't like my P3AT at first. It felt like it was trying to jump straight up out of my hand, and it failed to fully eject, or feed too often. With the grips and the mag extensions and some Kel-Tec specific practice all of that cleared up. The one issue I have with it now is the incredibly long trigger reset.
 
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