By Sturm Guilford
I’m not going to use that tired chestnut, “What price safety?” The Rohrbaugh R9 is expensive; it’s also the smallest, most concealable autoloader, chambered in 9X19 para, available on the market today. It has all the features I wanted in a concealed carry pistol: hammer fired, double action only, European style heel mounted magazine catch, grip panels* and no safety.
My first excursion to the range after it arrived was an absolute disaster – I had treated it as if it were a service weapon. It is not. It’s so small, tolerances are so tight and heat dissipation is so slow, shooting anything more than three, six round magazines in quick succession will result in repeated jams. All of my jams on the first trip to the range were failures to feed and failures to eject – stove pipes. To say I was peeved, after spending more than a grand on a handmade little pistol, would have been an understatement. I’m pretty sure someone heard me cuss back in Ronneburg Castle.
I tested it at Freedom Armory in Glen Rock, Pennsylvania. They have a friendly, knowledgeable staff that was more than interested in helping, but had no idea what would possibly be causing the jams. Most all reactions were the same, “Never saw a Rohrbaugh before. Heard of them, never saw one”. When they held it, it nearly disappeared in some of their bear like paws. The look of astonishment on their faces when they noticed “9MM” on the side of the barrel and not “.380AUTO” was universal. “Nine millimeter, what?” Yes, it’s that small. After about a week, and several hours of cursing, loads of graphing data, while changing one variable at a time, I concluded the jamming – all of it – was caused by overheating. It swallows any ammo, I carry 115gr Hornady XTP 6+1 and have no qualms that if I ever needed it, it would surely go BANG! seven times. It is not rated for +P (+P+ is right out), even if it were, the 2.9” barrel wouldn’t be able to make any use of the increased chamber pressure anyway.
Fit and finish is extraordinary, the double action trigger is a very even, buttery smooth seven pounds, with zero slop between finger pressure and hammer movement. The bobbed hammer is slightly recessed in the back of the slide when at rest, and the grips are a smooth polymer, which can be a tad slick in a sweaty hand. There is no safety and no slide lock. The literature calls the grips “textured polymer”, if light logo engraving is considered textured, then they’re indeed textured. There is nothing on the outside of this pistol to snag on clothing, the edges are softened and almost micro-chamfered, it feels like a small, flat river washed stone. Take down is a challenge. Retract slide part way to line up hole in slide with pin in frame, tap pin out with a brass drift. Yes, that third hand is a requirement. After that it’s pretty straight forward. After the initial post purchase, pre-first fire cleaning and inspection, I’ve only cleaned it when I replace the recoil spring every two hundred rounds. Yes 200 rounds.
It has no sights, is a pain to change magazines, (I carry no spare mag), and the recoil spring is rated for only a 200 round service life. It sounds like a pistol upon which you’d never willingly stake your life, right? However, it has a niche: This pistol is designed to be the gun you always have on you. Always. It is never going to be at home in the safe because it’s too hot out, I just don’t feel like it, my date doesn’t want to see it print, I’ll be wearing black tie tonight and dancing foxtrot and rumba… there are no clothing, personal or relationship excuses for not carrying this pistol. It’s fired strong side, from the half ready position, while your weak hand is up protecting your face. Point blank, instinctive shooting, squeeze off three quick rounds, and adjust point of impact between rounds. Move the OWWIES towards center mass. This is not the gun used in affecting the classic British officer pistol stance. It’s for that “oh no, it’s here and now” moment, for which many of us train, but pray never comes. Four to ten feet, and twenty seconds of lizard brain instincts and muscle memory, tempered from countless training sessions.
“Shoot little, carried always.” I keep a round count with all my carry pistols, and it’s even more important with this one. I’m up to 185 rounds on the current recoil spring, replacement is due at 200. I shoot about a magazine every six months now, with lots of dry fire in between.
The Rohrbaugh R9 is available in several finishes and configurations. R9S has sights, almost insignificant, “why are they there” bumps, a two-tone shinny slide and black frame, and the R9 Stealth, all black frame, grips and slide. That’s the one I chose, sans sights. I don’t like shiny guns, and frankly there is no point of sights on this gun – If you take the time to align a sight picture on this, or any pistol in a defensive situation at five feet, you’re going to die.
*I don’t wear a holster, inside the waistband carry with a clippie thing called a Covert Carrier riveted to the right grip panel. The Covert Carrier is notched, and disappears behind a belt loop, and underneath the belt. A tucked in polo or dress shirt blouses over the top of the back strap. Poof – almost invisible. I love it. For me it’s the best way to carry discreetly.
Model: Rohrbaugh R9 Stealth
Caliber: 9×19 Parabellum
Capacity: 6+1 Rounds
Material: Black stainless steel slide, stainless steel barrel, black aluminum alloy frame, textured polymer grips
Weight empty: 14.3 ounces
Barrel Length: 2.9″
Action: Hammer Fired DAO
The Mauser C96 Model 1930… The Broomhandle. Just for the fun of an eleven inch muzzle flame.