Rohrbaugh R9S Compact 9x19mm Pistol

by Leroy Thompson

photography by Leroy Thompson

September 5th, 2007

UPDATE by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn and Boge Quinn

May 3rd, 2012




Click pictures for a larger version.




Rohrbaugh R9S "Tribute" Model.



Rohrbaugh R9S comes with hard case, two mags, cable lock, extra recoil spring, instructions.







Federal Guard Dog ammo.





Rohrbaugh R9S 9mm (right) compared to Ruger LCP 380 (left).








It has been almost five years since Leroy Thompson reviewed the Rohrbaugh R9S Stealth semi-auto pistol for us on Back then, we were not doing video, and the pistol we have here now is a bit different from the one which Leroy reviewed, so we decided it was time to do an update, and include a video to demonstrate the handling and recoil qualities of the Rohrbaugh 9mm pistol.

The R9S is sized like many small 380 pistols, but instead of chambering that short cartridge, the Rohrbaugh fires the standard 9x19mm round. I pulled from my safe as many compact 9mm pistols as I could find, weighing each one, and the R9S is lighter than any of them. The R9S is constructed primarily of stainless steel, with an aluminum frame. The grip panels on the newer one shown here are very durable carbon fiber material. The trigger pull is double-action for every shot, and the pull is butter-smooth, measuring six pounds, seven ounces on my Lyman digital gauge.

As Leroy mentioned in the original review, the Rohrbaugh is built to fire standard pressure 9mm only; no +P or +P+ ammo. That is just as well, as this lightweight little 9mm does just fine with standard 9mm, and is a great improvement over the power of the 380 Auto, to which it compares in size.

Critical specifications for the R9S are listed in the chart below. The weights are listed in ounces, and linear measurements in inches. The grip and frame widths were measured at their widest parts. The height includes the sights and magazine base. The trigger pull is listed as pounds of resistance. The weight includes an empty magazine.

Weight 14.4 oz.
Height 3.86"
Length 5.18"
Slide Width 0.83"
Maximum Grip Width 0.956"
Frame Width 0.625"
Maximum Width 0.956"
Trigger Pull 6.44 lbs.
Trigger Reach 2.63"
Barrel Length 2.9"
Magazine Capacity 6
Magazines Supplied 2

The R9S, as mentioned above, is limited to standard-pressure 9mm ammunition, but there are some good choices available that expand well, even from the short barrel of the R9S. The Federal 105 grain Guard Dog seems to be a very good load, and clocks 1075 feet-per-second, ten feet from the muzzle of the Rohrbaugh pistol. The front core of the Guard Dog bullet is a soft plastic, and expands readily upon impact.

The fit and finish quality on the Rohrbaugh pistol is impeccable. Absolutely flawless, inside and out. There are no visible tool marks anywhere on the pistol, not even inside where they would not show. Functioning was also flawless, with every type of ammunition tried. Every cartridge fed, fired, and ejected perfectly. I made no attempt to bench-test the R9S for accuracy, as that is not the intended purpose of this weapon. All testing for accuracy was done at a life-size human silhouette target at distances from five to twenty-five yards. Keeping every shot in the kill zone was easy to do, even when firing quickly. The sights work pretty well in good light, but I would like to see Crimson Trace introduce a Lasergrip for this dandy little pistol. The front sight on this R9S is stainless, integral with the slide, and a drop of fluorescent nail polish would be a cheap and effective way to make it more visible.

The Rohrbaugh R9S is a very compact, reliable, and powerful pocket pistol. The location of the magazine release on the heel eliminates the possibility of the mag release dropping the mag while in the pocket. This gun is built for personal defense, with every feature engineered towards that purpose. The R9S comes with two magazines, a hard case, instructions, extra recoil spring, and a cable lock. It is smooth and snag-free to carry in the pocket. It is one of the best pocket pistols on the market, built to solve the most serious of social conflicts. The Rohrbaugh R9S is small enough and light enough to always be within reach, and it will work when you need it the most.

Check out the R9S online at

Federal Guard Dog ammo is available from

For quality pocket and belt holsters for the R9S, go to

Jeff Quinn

Original Article

It’s fairly common for a new cop just out of the academy to carry a big pistol off duty or a new concealed carry license holder to carry his favorite 1911-type pistol or his Model 29 Smith & Wesson. With the young cops, financial considerations sometimes enter into the equation. When I started working for the local sheriff’s department while I was a junior in college I could only afford the Colt Official Police with 5” barrel I carried on duty; hence, it was my off duty gun as well. A secondary job at J.C. Penny during the Christmas rush earned me the money to buy a used Chiefs Special Smith & Wesson, which became my off duty gun. For attending classes I soon found that the Chief stuck in the pocket of my khakis was far more comfortable for off duty carry. I didn’t know about pocket holsters in those days, so it did pick up a lot of scratches from keys and coins, but it kept working just fine. On duty, it rode in my left jacket pocket in cold weather and my left trousers pocket in warm weather.

Today, with more and more "Shall Issue" states and more and more concealed carry licenses, many who work in professions where an exposed belt gun might attract too much attention are discovering the appeal of pocket guns. For many years, pocket autos were primarily in .25, .32, or .380 chamberings and competed with the J-frame Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolvers. More recently, however, some manufacturers have responded to the need for a pocket pistol in a serious caliber.  The Kahr PM9 and the Kel-Tec 9mm are a couple of the best known examples. The Rohrbaugh R9S Stealth which I am gong to discuss here is another excellent 9mm pocket auto. Note that the “Stealth” refers to the Diamond Black slide. 

On size, the Rohrbaugh beats the competition in virtually every dimension. Overall length is only 5 1/8 inches, height 4 inches, and thickness .85 inches. Weight with magazine but no cartridges is slightly over 14 ounces.  And, the Rohrbaugh is designed as a pocket pistol. The R9 is sightless which removes one possible snag, though I actually prefer the R9S...”S” for sights.  Since I now carry all pocket pistols in a pocket holster, the rudimentary sights on the “S” model aren’t likely to snag. Other features which make it a desirable pocket pistol include the bottom magazine release which make the inadvertent dumping of the magazine by hitting a button virtually impossible. Since the Rohrbaugh is a DA-only, there is no safety to snag and the hammer is flush with the slide. There is no slide stop either, and the trigger guard is well rounded. Overall, the R9S is very sleek and well designed for pocket carry.

Speaking of pocket carry, at the same time I ordered the R9S, I ordered one of the excellent Milt Sparks pocket holsters in sharkskin.  Even if one carries the pistol in the same pocket with changes or keys, the sharkskin protects the gun and holds up to a lifetime of usage. Since I do plan to use the Rohrbaugh primarily as a support side gun, I ordered a left hand pocket holster. I’ll talk more about that later. 

OK, The R9S is compact and without protrusions so that it can go into and out of a pocket readily. If it doesn’t shoot, though, none of this is important so as soon as possible after my Rohrbaugh came in I headed for the range. The Rohrbaughs are designed for standard velocity 9x19mm ammo, no +P nor +P+ loads.  I had some Winchester 115 grain Silvertips, some Black Hills 115 grain FMC, and some CCI Blazer 115 grain FMC, all of which are standard velocity so I packed up 100 rounds of Black Hills and 50 rounds of each of the others.

I mentioned earlier that I had ordered a left pocket holster from Milt Sparks for the Rohrbaugh since I plan to use it primarily as a support side gun.  When I am carrying my belt gun, these days a Lightweight Springfield Operator, the Rohrbaugh can function as a second gun. I also sometimes carry an HK P2000SK as a strong side gun in my right pocket when I do not wear a belt gun. The P2000SK has good night sights and I feel comfortable using it out to 25 yards. Having the Rohrbaugh on the left side as a backup to it makes sense as well since I don’t normally carry a spare magazine for the P2000SK since it holds 10+1 rounds. I know some of you are thinking that I carry a lot of iron in my pockets, but when I carry two pocket guns it is normally in a pair of Woolrich Elite trousers which are very well designed for pocket carry. The pockets are big enough for the HK and there are also enough extra pockets that I can carry my knife, keys, coins, cell phone, etc. easily without having to use the pockets which carry the pistol or pistols.

Since the Rohrbaugh is a DA-only without any external safeties, it lends itself especially well to support side use for me. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it would make an excellent concealment primary arm. It would and many use it that way. I may well get a right side pocket holster and use it that way myself. For purposes of testing, though, I fired about half the rounds from the Rohrbaugh left-handed and half right-handed.  This also allowed me to test that I was gripping it tightly enough to prevent “limp wrist” malfunctions .It functioned flawlessly in either hand and when tilted and even when fired upside down. Firing at odd angles is a way to test if a gun will function should it be necessary to engage from nonstandard firing positions. I trained with a Russian special police unit one time that practiced rolling across the ground and firing from their back looking toward their target with the gun upside down. They felt it was a good drill. A friend of mine who trains women in self defense with handguns often has them lie on the ground and practice kicking and spinning to keep an assailant away while drawing their empty weapon/red gun.  He then has them practice engaging targets from odd angles while on the ground.  I guess my point is that shooting the Rohrbaugh from odd angles tested reliability for practical purposes as well.

Once I had fired a couple of magazines, which hold 6 rounds by the way, at plates to become accustomed to the double action pull and recoil for the R9S, I set up a silhouette target at 10 yards and shooting with a two-hand hold fired seven rounds as fast as possible.  All rounds went into center of mass covering about 5 inches, though a bit to the right.  After that drill, I tried presenting the gun from my pocket left-handed and firing one-handed at 7 yards.  The group wasn’t great, but all were in the chest/stomach area of the silhouette, though once again a bit right. 

The double action pull was good and was smooth enough that it did not cause me to jerk off shots. The sights are very rudimentary but certainly make aimed fire easier than with the R9 version which does not have sights.  I have been using a Seecamp .32 auto for many years and have gotten relatively good at using it out to 10 yards without sights, but I still do prefer sights in case I have to use the pistol at longer ranges. 

Reliability was 100 % with the R9S.That was for a total of around 150 rounds.  I think the good-sized ejection port is an aid to reliability. Since this is a real double action pistol rather than a pre-cocked design, should one get a hard primer, a second pull of the trigger will give a second hit.  Recoil was definitely noticeable even with standard velocity 9mm loads. A friend who was shooting with me and I both found that the grips which are smooth except for the Rohrbaugh logo which is textured had a tendency to shift in the hand when firing quickly. I think if they were more textured they would not have shifted as much. On the other hand, roughened grips might well have abraded the hands in recoil. 

My friend Tim who was with me wanted to shoot the R9S to see just how accurately it could be used. At 10 yards he managed to get a 5-shot 10 yard group of just over an inch using Black Hills Blue Box 115 grain FMC reloads. At 50 feet, he put five rounds into about 5-6 inches.  My 5-shot 50 foot group was closer to 7 inches. The Rohrbaugh is a close quarters weapon, but if necessary it can be used to reach out to at least 50 feet.  I have seen police officers who carried a 2” Smith & Wesson J-frame qualify at 25 yards with the very basic fixed sights on those snubbies so I think with practice one could shoot the Rohrbaugh at longer range. I tried shooting it at plates at 15, 25 and 35 yards and was hitting quite well at 15 yards and about half the time at the longer ranges. I think that I will put a couple of dots of white enamel on the sights which should help me acquire them more readily. 

I have not disassembled the Rohrbaugh yet because I want to keep shooting it without cleaning it until I’ve put 300+ rounds through it to see if it will function reliably that entire time without cleaning.  Disassembly is fairly easy, however. One just has to drop the magazine, clear the pistol, then hold the slide back while pushing out the cross pin. The slide/barrel group may then be slid from the rails and the barrel removed for cleaning. The disassembly and maintenance booklet that comes with the gun shows the points where the R9S should be lubricated. Speaking of the barrel, it is flared/belled at the muzzle to aid in tight lockup when the slide is closed. Normally, this system enhances accuracy on compact pistols. The dual recoil spring system uses a captive inner spring and a larger outer spring. A metal collar holds this outer spring in place.  Rohrbaugh recommends replacing this spring every 500 rounds.

Karl Rohrbaugh is a craftsman who has done a great job on the R9S.He set out to create a pocket pistol which could be a real companion, one that would be along when a larger pistol would not.  I decided a long time ago that the best custom combat pistol in the world wasn’t much good if it was at home in the safe.  The best combat pistol is one that’s there when you need it. The R9S is compact enough and light enough that it is easy to have it there when you need it. That's the great gift Karl Rohrbaugh has given the American LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) or concealed carry licensee. I specifically mention these two groups because they carry a gun with them.  The Rohrbaugh can also serve as a home defense gun, but that’s a niche where size is not normally an issue.  The Rohrbaugh R9S’s niche is in the pocket ready to defend its owner if needed. 

There are actually four versions of the Rohrbaugh available: the R9 or R9S stealth with Diamond Black slide or the R9 or R9S in stainless steel. The Rohrbaugh is not cheap in price and it is certainly not cheap in construction--no, make that craftsmanship. The Rohrbaugh is carefully made in a small shop in New York State to exacting standards. With a Rohrbaugh, one gets a very high quality pistol which will serve a lifetime as a companion defense weapon.


Leroy Thompson

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Click pictures for a larger version.



Original Pictures:

Seven rounds fired quickly, from the pocket, left handed, at 7 yards.



The Stealth black R9S disappears in a pocket very well since there is no glint should the pocket happen to gap open.



Seven shots aimed, two-hand hold at 10 yards.



Even with standard velocity 9x19mm loads, recoil is noticeable with the Rohrbaugh but one can still recover quickly for follow-up shots.



Carefully aimed, slow fire, 5-shot group at 10 yards illustrates that even with the rudimentary sights on the Rohrbaugh good accuracy is possible.



Even at 50 feet the Rohrbaugh is capable of delivering center of mass hits as this 5-shot group illustrates.



Thompson plans to use this Milt Sparks sharkskin pocket holster to carry the Rohrbaugh on his support side.



The Rohrbaugh in the center between two other popular pocket defense pistols--the Kahr PM9 at top and the Seecamp LWS-32 at bottom



Note the flush fit of the bobbed hammer with the slide and the compact but usable rear sight.



The bottom mag release is slower for reloads but more secure when carried in a pocket.



Note the snag free profile of the R9S, perfect for a pocket pistol.



The R9S is compact and deadly.



The belled muzzle of the Rohrbaugh helps lock up and, hence, accuracy.



The R9S’s large ejection port aids in reliability.



Woolrich Elite trousers have pockets which are perfect for carrying pocket pistols in serious calibers.