2011: Year of the Small 9mm

They say that what was old is new again, and that may just be the case for 9mm pistols this year.  After several years of the tiny .380 pocket-pistol craze, shooters are returning to the proven 9mm cartridge for self defense handguns.

The firearms industry is responding, introducing a number of new pistols in 2011 aimed at the concealed carry market.  While not every 9mm pistol introduced this year can be listed, here are a few of the highlights we’ll see on the dealers’ shelves in the coming months.

Kimber Solo – Kimber announced a sub-compact 9mm pistol at the SHOT Show called the Solo.  The Solo has a vaguely 1911 look, with melted edges and corners, giving it a very smooth appearance.

The Solo is a single-action, striker-fired pistol with a self-lubricating finish.  The 17 ounce pistols have a 6+1 capacity, a barrel length of only 2.7” and an overall length of 5.5”.

Features like three-dot sights, ambidextrous safety and ambidextrous magazine release give the Solo characteristics typical found only on larger handguns.

MSRP on the Solo is $725.

Boberg XR9-S – Under development for several years, the Boberg XR9-S is a revolutionary design in compact 9mm pistols, and will be available for sale this year.

The XR9-S uses what could possibly be described as a bullpup-style pistol, with the chamber at the very rear of the pistol, sitting just above the web of the shooting hand.  The magazine of the pistol is forward of the chamber, and as the slide cycles, a cartridge is pulled from the magazine, to the rear.

Using this design, the Boberg pistol is able to make a very compact pistol, yet retain a barrel longer than typically found in this size handgun.  Longer barrels in small pistols mean higher velocities for bullets, increasing the ability of hollow points to expand properly and stop violent attackers.

The XR9-S has a barrel length of 3.35”, which is the longest in this group.  And when compared to the same pistols, it still has the shortest overall length at only 5.1”.  The Boberg has a 7+1 capacity, and is rated for standard and +P ammunition.

The Boberg is undergoing final testing and should ship around mid-year.  Although the MSRP is not set, Boberg expects to sell the pistol for under $1,000.

Kahr CM9 – Introduced this year as a less-expensive alternative to the PM-series of handguns, the Kahr CM9 is a single stack 9mm pistol with a 6+1 capacity.  Kahr pistols are generally held in high regard for their quality and workmanship, so a lower priced alternative of the company’s PM-series is likely to be popular.

Unloaded, the CM9 weighs slightly less than 16 ounces, and has an overall length of 5.3”.  Barrel length is 3”. 

The CM9 has a polymer frame and a stainless steel slide and barrel.  The sights are the standard “dot and bar” typically found on a Kahr pistol, with the front sight pinned, and the rear dovetailed for drift adjustment.

MSRP is $565, and the CM9 will ship at the end of March.

Ruger LC9 – Several weeks ago, I listed the Ruger LC9 as one of the best new firearms of 2011.  I still believe this to be the case.

The LC9 is essentially the big brother to Ruger’s wildly popular LCP pistol.  Slightly enlarged to handle the full power 9mm cartridge, the LC9 maintains a small size, lightweight and rounded corners, but actually has good sights unlike the LCP. 

With an overall length of 6”, the LC9 may be just slightly larger than a normal “pocket gun,” but it is certainly small enough for easy concealment in a more traditional holster.

Already shipping, the MSRP on the LC9 is $443, which makes it the most affordable on this list.

Sig P290 – The new Sig Sauer P290 pistol is a diminutive 9mm handgun that deviates from the
classic Sig styling, and looks more like a squat P250 pistol.

The P290 uses a polymer frame, and it has interchangeable grip panels.   Polymer panels ship standard, but shooters can easily insert aluminum, G10 and wood panels for a custom fit and look.

The slide is machined from a solid billet of stainless steel.  Dovetailed sights sit atop the pistol, and are drift adjustable.  Barrel length is 2.9”.

A six round magazine is standard, but optional eight round magazines will be available as well.  With an empty six round mag, the P290 weighs in at 20.5 ounces.

With standard polymer grip panels and sights, the Sig P290 has a MSRP of $758, making it the most expensive of this bunch.  Options include a natural stainless slide finish, night sights and an integrated laser module.

Year of the 9mm?

The year 2011 may, or may not, be remembered as the Year of the Small 9mm by future firearms enthusiasts.  One thing that cannot be ignored is the consumers’ demands for choices in the concealed carry market.

For a variety of reasons, many people are not able, or willing, to carry a larger gun, but want more power than what a .380 ACP offers.  All of these 9mm pistols offers a substantial step up in cartridge performance, while maintaining a relatively small package.