While designing the Rohrbaugh R9 pistol, Karl Rohrbaugh had only one thing in mind: self-defense. Realistically, a large, heavy handgun is less likely to be carried than one that is compact and lightweight, so from the beginning the R9 was to be physically small, easy to transport and simple to use, yet powerful enough to get the job done. In your typical self-defense scenario, the threat is close, time is of the essence, the risks are enormous and the user is under a high level of stress. This calls for a pistol that wonï¿½t snag on a holster or clothing while being drawn, combined with point-and-pull simplicity but without the delays imposed by mechanical safeties or other pre-firing processes. In other words, all the features possessed by the Rohrbaugh R9.
The Rohrbaugh R9 first appeared during 2003 and was intended to be a “belly gun” so it had no sights on the top of the slide. Then came the R9s the “s” meaning they came equipped with sights. Needless to say, these sights are unobtrusive and completely integral with the slide. I elected to test the standard R9s with a stainless steel slide as well as the R9s Stealth, which has a stainless slide finished with black Nitride, a coating that increases wear resistance and has friction-reduction and anti-galling qualities. Both guns have a black anodized aluminum frame, G10 grip panels with the Rohrbaugh crest, a DAO firing system with a smooth-faced combat trigger, and a magazine catch located on the heel of the grip. There are no external safeties.
Outside and in, the Rohrbaugh R9s pistols displayed painstaking quality. Unlike many small pistols, the R9 is not an adaptation of a larger pistol with a cut-off barrel, slide and grip it was made from the ground up as a small, deep-concealment handgun. Dimensionally, the R9s has an overall length of 5.2 inches with a 2.9-inch barrel, a height of 3.7 inches, and a width at the grip panels of 0.92 inches. Altogether, it only weighs 13.5 ounces empty. And we are talking about an all-metal gun with a stainless steel slide and an aircraft-grade aluminum frame, both of which are precision CNC-machined from solid billets and fitted by hand. For a handgun this size, you get a capacity of 6+1 rounds of 9mm. The magazines are polished bright and have witness holes on the side.
When my pistols arrived, they each came inside their own black hard cases lined on the inside with foam rubber, with cutouts for the gun, magazines and extra recoil spring. Also included: a cable lock, owner’s manual and disassembly/lubrication instructions.
I wanted to shoot both guns to assess accuracy and reliability, so I assembled a group of five standard-pressure 9mm loads. In the two-tone R9s, I used Fiocchi 115-grain XTP JHP and PMC Starfire 124-grain JHP loads. For the R9s Stealth, I used Pierce Ammunition 115-grain FMJ and Remington Golden Saber 124-grain JHP rounds. To pit one gun against the other, I fired Federal 147-grain Hydra-Shok hollow points in both. Except for the heavy Federal 147-grain load, all of the cartridges broke the 1,000 feet per second (fps) mark, making these little pistols slightly better than snubby .38 Special revolvers using bullets of similar weight.
I positioned 9-inch oval targets 21 feet away. To be honest, I was not really expecting a lot accuracy-wise and crossed my fingers, hoping that I could keep all the rounds in the target. But the results were outstanding, and my tightest five-shot group of the day measured 1.59 inches with the Fiocchi 115-grain XTP hollow points. Right behind that with the same gun were the PMC Starfire 124-grain JHPs with a 1.61-inch, five-round cluster. The R9s Stealthï¿½s best group, 1.81 inches wide, was made with Remingtonï¿½s Golden Saber 124-grain JHP ammo.
I performed some combat drills, practiced speed reloads, and drew from concealment. There were no malfunctions with either gun, and both Rohrbaugh pistols lived up to the manufacturerï¿½s claims. If you’re in the market for a mini 9mm, definitely take a look at the Rohrbaugh R9 series.