Truck guns aren’t just for pickups. Having a weapon in your vehicle to supplement your concealed-carry firearm can make sense whether it’s a ’78 Bronco or a Mercedes G-Class. And don’t forget fellow gun owners who ride instead of drive. A saddlebag on a Harley can also store a compact “truck gun.”
A proper truck gun should offer you increased magazine capacity and improved accuracy potential. In addition to fitting the available space, a truck gun should be able to handle the dirty environments found in any trunk or truck cab. So, with all of those requirements laid out, let me introduce the Kalashnikov USA KP-9.
Based on the Vityaz-SN submachine gun, this pistol offers enhanced ballistics and significantly better long-range accuracy than your average pocket pistol. The KP-9 has the reliability of an AK, the smooth finish of a touring car and the fun potential of an unopened box of Legos.
The Kalashnikov USA KP-9 and Its Subgun Heritage
The KP-9 is a semi-automatic 9mm pistol with a 9.25-inch barrel and styling cues similar to an AK’s. While not quite a clone, the KP-9 is very similar to the Russian- designed Vityaz-SN submachine gun, which in turn was based on the Kalashnikov-pattern rifles. The famous Izhmash factory in Russia developed the Vityaz-SN.
If you’re familiar with the way a typical AK-pattern rifle operates, the KP-9 is a smooth transition. The selector lever is located on the right side of the gun, and the paddle-style magazine release is located behind the magazine well. The bolt assembly is accessed in the usual way, though the cover is attached to the receiver by a hinge.
A careful reading of the owner’s manual uncovered no prohibitions on the use of factory +P or +P+ ammunition. So, high-pressure loads like Federal’s 115-grain BPLE JHP +P+ rounds should be fine to shoot in this handgun. This isn’t surprising, as the KP-9 design is based on a submachine gun that fired high-pressure ammunition like steel-core 7N21 rounds.
The magazines are made of polymer and have a pleasing curve that matches the taper of the 9mm cartridge. One magazine ships with the gun, and the company offers additional mags through its website. Thirty-round magazines are standard, but 10-rounders are also available. If you have factory Vityaz magazines on hand, you’re in luck. According to Kalashnikov USA, these mags will function in your KP-9. Also, since running polymer mags in a steel receiver could cause problems over time, Kalashnikov USA has installed a polymer magazine well to help reduce wear.
Unlike other AK-style firearms, the KP-9 is blowback operated. The traditional gas piston system in AK-pattern rifles isn’t used here. That said, the finely tuned blowback design shares the reliability of 7.62x39mm rifles. In all of the shooting I did with this gun, I had precisely zero issues. Not a single one. That’s what I want in any defensive firearm I own—especially one that is carried in a potentially dirty or dusty environment.
All of the parts on my test pistol seemed well machined and finished. The trigger was an excellent example of the quality Kalashnikov USA builds into these guns. I measured the pull to be an average of 3.5 pounds with a relatively short pull. Likewise, the selector switch clicked easily into place. This is no surplus gun—it’s a well-tuned machine.
Finally, let me dispel a myth. There’s a misconception held by some that Kalashnikov USA guns are made in Russia. They are not. All Kalashnikov USA firearms are manufactured here in the U.S. I’ve been to the factory and did not see Vladimir Putin or any spooky, trench-coat-wearing Russians. Kalashnikov USA is an entirely independent company.
Kalashnikov USA KP-9 Range Time
For this review, I actually spent time with two different KP-9 pistols. Between them, I shot more than 1,500 rounds, including a wide range of self-defense ammunition. The guns proved to be excellent performers in terms of both accuracy and reliability.
Having a Picatinny rail on the hinged receiver cover allowed me to easily attach a Trijicon MRO reflex sight to the first gun. I found the standard sights to be accurate but somewhat slow to find in uneven lighting. On the other hand, the MRO allowed for rapid target acquisitions with no loss in accuracy.
I shot the pistol from a variety of positions with both the iron sights and MRO. The gun proved to be accurate across the board. Without a sling, I found the best shooting position was with two hands—one on the pistol grip and the support hand on the forend, just in front of the magazine well. I would push forward with my strong hand and pull back with my support hand to create isometric tension for stability.
I shot a second KP-9 at the Nexus range in Davie, Fla. This is a state-of-the-art shooting facility that offers an electronic entertainment lane that presents various shooting games that measure accuracy and speed. With the KP-9 outfitted with a two-point sling and iron sights, I spent an hour and hundreds of rounds of ammunition running through speed drills with the gun. The gun swung easily when transitioning from target to target.
With the sling increasing the stability of my shooting platform, I was quite accurate with the gun. However, when the front sight happened to fall into a shadow, I felt significantly slowed as I struggled to find it. This is where a red-dot sight would have excelled.
Testing & Results
The recoil was mild. Yes, I know the 9mm isn’t a hard-hitting round. However, I’ve observed that some blowback-operated pistols and carbines are a bit snappy. This isn’t one of them. It’s a soft shooter with relatively little rearward force or muzzle rise.
I spent quite a bit of time working on my accuracy with the first gun. As you might expect, the longer your engagement distance, the more critical it is to sight in your optic for your ammunition. For example, I initially adjusted the MRO to be dead center at 15 yards with CCI Blazer 115-grain FMJ rounds. When I swapped to the Federal 124-grain HST +P load, my groups shifted upward by more than an inch. With Liberty Ammunition’s 60-grain Civil Defense JHP +P load, I saw a drop of approximately 2 inches. Knowing where your load hits is critical for any shot that might be required, and your groups will always spread with distance.
As I’ve seen with many pistols and carbines with barrels longer than 5 inches, the bullet velocities from the KP-9 were greater than they would be with your typical 9mm handgun. For example, the 147-grain V-Crown JHPs from Sig Sauer are rated at 985 fps. From the KP-9, those rounds averaged 1,136 fps. That is a substantial increase in terms of both velocity and energy.
Other loads showed significant velocity increases as well. The Federal +P HSTs averaged 1,376 fps. That’s more than 500 foot-pounds of energy (fpe), making it closer to the vaunted .357 Magnum than the 9mm. Finally, Liberty Ammunition’s 50-grain +P JHPs averaged well over 2,400 fps. This is up to 280-fps faster than 55-grain .223 Remington rounds I’ve measured from AR pistols. There are ballistic differences between the two, but with the reduced muzzle blast of the 9mm Liberty ammo, it makes me wonder if this cartridge is more effective than the .223 for an SBR or long-barreled pistol.
In addition to the ammunition listed in the table, I ran 11 other loads through the pistol. As I mentioned, all of the ammunition ran without any problems, including steel-cased and +P+ loads. I found the accuracy to be excellent across the board. My five-shot groups rarely exceeded 2 inches while firing off-hand at 15 yards. Most were between 1.25 and 1.75 inches. Bracing against the shooting bench tightened the groups even more. If you think AK-style weapons aren’t accurate, I challenge you to hit the range with one of these guns. You’ll be impressed.
For Close Encounters
A pistol might seem like an odd choice for a truck gun, but I think the KP-9 is a different breed of handgun that perfectly fits the bill for many people. First off, if you need a compact weapon for your vehicle, this gun fits into tight spaces without disassembly. That’s incredibly beneficial, especially for people in special-purpose vehicles.
More importantly, the gun is very reliable. In a vehicle where things can get dusty or wet, having a dependable operating system is critical. My sample guns were flawless and should withstand the typical issues of truck use. I’d have no problem keeping one in any of my vehicles for close encounters of the dangerous kind. For more information, visit Kalashnikov-USA.com.
Kalashnikov USA KP-9 Specs
- Caliber: 9mm
- Barrel: 9.25 inches
- Overall Length: 18.25 inches
- Weight: 5.62 pounds (empty)
- Grip: Polymer
- Sights: Front post, adjustable rear
- Action: Blowback-operated semi-auto
- Finish: Matte black
- Capacity: 30+1
- MSRP: $999
Kalashnikov USA KP-9 Performance
|Federal 124 HST +P||1,376||1.26 inches|
|Liberty 50 Civil Defense JHP +P||2,415||1.22 inches|
|SIG Sauer 147 V-Crown JHP||1,136||0.70 inches|
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in fps by chronograph and accuracy in inches for best five-shot group at 15 yards.
This article is from the April/May 2020 issue of Ballistic Magazine. Grab your subscription today at OutdoorGroupStore.com.