Ballistics by the inch

Reprise: Boberg XR9-S review.

Prompted by my friends over at the Liberal Gun Club, this is another in an occasional series of revisiting some of my old articles which had been published elsewhere over the years, perhaps lightly edited or updated with my current thoughts on the topic discussed. This is an article I wrote for Guns.com, and it originally ran 3/26/2012. Images used are from that original article. Some additional observations at the end.

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Last fall I reviewed the Boberg XR9-S pistol shortly after it was introduced into the market. Just recently I had a chance to really help “break in” a pair of Bobergs—to put them through their paces with about 300 rounds of ammo in the course of a very short period of time. Last October I concluded that:

This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made. The innovative design makes your brain hurt when you first see it. But the recoil is nothing like what you get from any other “pocket gun”, even when shooting full +P defensive ammunition. Usually with a pocket gun, you trade off the pain of shooting it a lot for the convenience of being able to carry it easily. With the Boberg, you don’t have to make that trade-off. I honestly wouldn’t be bothered at all by running a couple hundred rounds through this gun at the range.

And I did exactly that. Here is a follow up review.

Two guns, or not two guns, that is the question…

Boberg XR9-S "Shorty" 9mmYou may be asking: Why a pair of Bobergs? Because my buddy is of the opinion that having two is better than one when it comes to concealed carry guns.

If you can do it, it makes a certain amount of sense. Two identical guns means that you only have to be aware of one operating system. You can carry both guns so that it is easy to draw one or the other depending on the situation (which hand is free, et cetera). Lastly, drawing a second gun is faster than reloading or having to go through remedial action.

There’s also the practical idea of having a second gun for parts, so if perchance something happens to the company then the guns and parts may be hard to come by. I don’t think that is likely in the case of Boberg Arms, but it does happen, particularly to small companies. So, as a hedge, my buddy ordered two of the guns figuring that at worst he’d wind up selling one or both later to recoup some of his investment.

Differences this time out

The first time we shot the Boberg, it was literally a case of taking the gun out of the box, reading the manual as we loaded it and shot it. There was little or no preparation or inspection—we just wanted to see what it felt like. Not something I would usually do, but the gun had just arrived at the FFL the day before and my friend picked it up on his way to visit.

This time was a different matter. The first gun had been cleaned, but not shot again after the last outing. This time we field-stripped both guns, inspected them and lubricated them as recommended in the manual. We opened up the magazines, gave them a quick wipe down and reassembled them. Finally, we opened up a 250 round box of 115-grain target ammo (ball) and commenced to loading magazines.

How did they do?

Excellent. Again, the fit and finish is very, very good, in keeping with what you would expect from a high-end pistol. The three-dot sights are good and easy to use in low light (where we were shooting this time). Accuracy is very good for such a small gun. The best shooter of our small group (who wasn’t with us last time) was able to keep rounds in about a three-inch group at 11 yards.

Boberg XR9-S "Shorty" field strippedI mentioned in my first review that we had some minor glitches with the gun not going completely into battery. That didn’t happen with the gun we shot previously, but it did happen with the one right out-out-of-the-box. Meaning before it functions at 100 percent, you need to run a few magazines through it.

We ran about 50 rounds through each gun, then took them down and did a quick cleaning and inspection. After the normal light lubrication and putting the guns back together, we didn’t have any problems again with either gun.

Or, I should say, we didn’t have any problems with them functioning again. Like the last time, the front sight on the new gun fell off about 25 rounds into the session. But this time we had brought an allen wrench of the proper size to remount and secure it.

Otherwise, both guns shot like champs. We took turns loading and shooting each gun, one right after the other, until we had went through all 250 rounds of the target ammo and 50 rounds of JHP self-defense +P ammo. When we were done, we again field stripped them and did a quick cleaning and inspection. There was no obvious wear and the guns weren’t very dirty.

Conclusion: Part II

Pretty much what I said before: “This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made.” And I was quite right about what it would be like to run a bunch of rounds through it: no problem at all. Each of us shot one or the other of these guns about 100 times. None of us had any problems at all with hands hurting or feeling abused by recoil. That alone is astonishing—I know of no other pocket pistol that I would be willing to do that with as a regular thing. With the Boberg, I wouldn’t hesitate for a moment doing it.

I know, like last time, someone is going to complain about a $1000 gun having the front sight fall off. Please—this is a completely trivial problem and one easily rectified by just checking to make sure the set screw is tight before you shoot. It’s one of those little things that should be caught by the manufacturer, but given how well the gun is put together and performs otherwise, I’ll cut ‘em some slack.

I’m more impressed than ever with this gun. In my initial review, I gave it a 4.5 star rating. Now I’d move that up to 5 stars, and wish I had further to go.

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I’ve now owned one of those two Bobergs for several years. And in that time my experience and opinion has evolved somewhat from the article above.

First and foremost, Boberg Arms was sold to Bond Arms early last year. They tweaked the design slightly, and made some changes to gun, and came out with what they now call the BullPup9. I haven’t shot one of those yet, but I did discuss the changes with Bond Arms and agree with the decisions they made. And in my experience the Bond products are all very well made, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the new pistol to anyone.

One thing I have come to learn about the XR9-S is that when chambering a round, it is critical that the slide is racked all the way back with significant force, and then released. If you do not draw the slide back with a snap, a round will only be lifted from the mag about halfway, and then will be caught behind the extractor. And if you try to ‘ride’ the slide forward, there’s a fair chance that the nose will drop down under the chamber and lodge tightly.

Either problem can be corrected in a few minutes with simple tools, but it definitely takes the gun “out of the fight” for the duration. I always caution people new to the gun about this problem, but still about a third of them will make this mistake at least once. Usually, once someone gets the hang of it, they don’t have a problem. And it is important to note that in normal operation, the gun cycles without any problems, chambering a new round from the magazine reliably. But this is still an important consideration in choosing a self-defense gun, and I would not recommend that anyone with poor hand strength (needed to rack the slide with sufficient force) choose the XR9-S.

To the best of my knowledge, there are still no after-market sights available for the XR9-S/BullPup9. I sent my front sight to a gunsmith friend, who turned it into a nice fiber-optic sight, but that’s about the best you can do in terms of improving the sights.

I do still love the little XR9-S, and I carry it a fair amount of the time. In terms of power and shoot-ability, it’s one of the best very compact packages out there. But it is a niche gun, and not suitable for every person or situation. So if you’re tempted, or intrigued, be sure to try one before you buy.

Jim Downey

 

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October 31, 2017 Posted by | 9mm Luger (9x19), Anecdotes, Boberg Arms, Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Now, *that’s* customer service.

Remember this guy?

with mag

Well, earlier this summer my pistol suffered a mechanical problem with what Boberg calls the ‘lift mechanism’ — the part which grabs a cartridge out of the magazine and pulls it back and up to position it for loading into the chamber. Basically, a pin which helps hold the mechanism in place broke, and the gun locked up.

I contacted Boberg, told them what happened, sent along some pics. They immediately responded, said that it was likely that since the gun was such a low serial number (just 0120) it had one of an early batch of pins which had substandard quality control. No biggie. They sent out a pick-up tag so I could ship it directly to them. About two weeks later (including shipping time), I had the gun back, with a new pin, all ready to go — without it costing me a cent.

Cool, right?

A couple days later I took it out to the range to see how it was working. And on the 19th round fired, it locked up again. Exact same way.

I contacted Boberg again. Again, they responded immediately. And they were astounded that it had happened a second time. The lead smith for the company queried me about the specifics of what happened, what ammo I was using, etc. Not because he thought that I was trying to pull a fast one, but because he was genuinely baffled how this could happen twice. Without hesitation they sent out another pick up tag, and I shipped the gun back in the same box it had arrived in a couple days previously. And I told them that they could take their time to investigate what happened — that I was in no hurry to have the gun back, and that above all I wanted a reliable gun rather than a quick turn-around. The lead smith understood and agreed completely.

So, a couple weeks later I got the gun back. Just yesterday, as a matter of fact (I asked them not to ship it until I was back from vacation). And I have yet to get out to test it myself. But this is what was in the box with the gun:

20150822_080243

I want to point to the first item on the invoice, which says:

Repair of firearm. RA#611, Serial #S450120. (Replaced broken lift mechanism. Put 250 rounds through it. Passed test firing.)

They ran 250 rounds through it. Not just one (which is typical for a test firing), or even a mag full (6 rounds). 250. That’s easily $100 of ammo. And probably a couple hours of someone’s time. Because like me, they wanted to make sure the gun was functioning reliably.

Now, *that*, my friends, is customer service.

Anything mechanical can break down. Even the best made items can have weird failures, regardless of the quality of materials or the care of a craftsman. It happens. I’m a conservator of rare books and documents, and it has happened in my work. What matters is whether the person/company behind that product will stand by their work and make it good.

Boberg has. Kudos to them.

Jim Downey

PS: Just for grins, here’s a pic of the interior I took before cleaning the gun this morning:

20150822_113419

August 22, 2015 Posted by | .45 ACP | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

First date with the Boberg XR9-S.

As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I picked up a ‘little brother‘ for my Boberg XR45-S. Here they are again:

Lil brother

Well, we’re having another delightful warm spell here in mid-Missouri, so yesterday afternoon I took advantage of it and went out to the range to give the little guy a try.

As I noted before, I have actually shot this particular gun a couple of times previously, and just loved it. But it had been a while, and I couldn’t remember specifically what ammo types we had used. So I packed up what variety of 9mm loads I had on hand, along with my chrono, and went to see whether anything had changed.

Because of the way they operate, the Boberg pistols have a tendency to be very particular about what ammo they like. Ammo which doesn’t have a sufficient crimp is prone to separate (the case being jerked away from the bullet). It’s an issue which is well known, and there’s a list of compatible ammo for both the XR9 and the XR45. But while those crowd-sourced lists are useful, the final word is always what specific ammo your particular gun will handle. For me, that’s particularly something I want to determine for any self-defense pistol before I will carry it.

Full details to follow, but for those who just want the short version: oh baby! The XR9 ate everything I fed it without a problem. Including my standard 9mm reloads. No mis-feeds. No bullet separation. No problems. And it was a real joy to shoot, which isn’t something I normally say about a pocket pistol handling full-power SD loads.

OK, for those want the details …

Below are informal* chrono numbers for seven different ammo types I had. These are all for the Boberg. But I also ran a few through my Steyr S9 for comparison, which usually just had an advantage of about 10 fps over the Boberg (the barrel on the Steyr is about a quarter of an inch longer). If that much.

  • Buffalo Bore 124gr JHP +P+                                             1,230 fps
  • Federal 124gr Hydra Shok JHP                                           1,025 fps
  • Reloads. (4.4gr HP-38, 124gr Rainier FMJ bullet)                        1,020 fps
  • Remington 124gr FMJ                                                       1,040 fps
  • Speer GDHP 115gr JHP                                                      1,210 fps
  • Speer GDHP 124gr JHP                                                      1,100 fps
  • Speer GDHP 124gr JHP +P ‘Short barrel’                           1,150 fps

As you can see, all pretty respectable numbers. And in keeping with both the claims of the manufacturer as well as what we had tested previously (where there’s overlap). I wouldn’t have any qualms carrying any of the Speer ammo, but my preferred SD ammo is currently the Buffalo Bore. Happily, the Boberg shot all of them without a glitch. And after getting my chrono numbers, I ran several magazines worth through the gun doing some quick shooting at cans, was getting excellent accuracy from it at about 15 yards.

I brought it home, stripped and cleaned it, and now consider it reliable enough to carry. Of course, I will continue to practice with it regularly, and keep a close on on how it performs with my reloads, and occasionally run a mag of carry ammo through it, but I don’t expect any problems. It’s a nice little gun.

Jim Downey

*By ‘informal’, I mean just using one chrono and without the lighting rig we now use for formal testing. And I would just run a magazine of ammo through, mentally noting the numbers in a running tally, then writing them down for that particular ammo, so they are necessarily just ‘ballpark’ figures. But since they jibe well with our previous numbers and what the mfg claims (which I only discovered when I sat down to write this), I think they’re pretty good.

January 20, 2015 Posted by | 9mm Luger (9x19), Boberg Arms, Data, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No matter which way you look …

…whether back over 2014, or forward into 2015, things are pretty good vis-a-vis BBTI.

Yeah, 2014 was pretty good. We didn’t do any formal testing, though I did some informal testing and a fair number of reviews of new guns or guns which were just new to me.  Having the chance to do those now and again is enjoyable, without having the same deadline pressures I had when I was doing regular columns and reviews for Guns.com.

The numbers also look pretty good for 2014. This blog went from about 12,000 visits in 2013 to 22,000 last year – nearly double. And the BBTI site itself jumped from 243,230 visitors in 2013 to 318,304 visitors in 2014 — an increase of about a third. Visits have also continued to climb pretty steadily from day-to-day, with typically about 1,250 or so daily by the end of the year. Given that we didn’t do any new testing, that’s pretty impressive.

And of course, we’d like to thank all who linked to us over the past year. Here’s the top ten referring sites for 2014, excluding search engines and Wikipedia:

  1. thefiringline.com
  2. defensivecarry.com
  3. guns.com
  4. thefirearmblog.com
  5. ar15.com
  6. gunsamerica.com
  7. reddit.com
  8. thetruthaboutguns.com
  9. rimfirecentral.com
  10. survivalistboards.com

How about the year to come, then?

Well, we’re planning on doing one largish series of tests, to cover .45 Super, .450 SMC, and a number of additional .45 ACP loadings. We haven’t yet set a date for this sequence, but I will post a note about it here and on our Facebook page once plans solidify.

And behind the scenes, improvements continue at the BBTI website. We recently upgraded our hosting set-up, to shift over to more modern software technology. We’ve started discussing how we can do better presentations of our graphs and spreadsheets. I would still very much like to work with someone to develop a mobile app — if you have the necessary skill set to do that, please drop me a note. And whenever someone finds a glitch in our data or how the site renders for them, we try and make the corrections. None of this is very obvious, but it is all a lot of work, and I’d like to once again thank our web guru (and my lovely wife) at Coeurbois Graphic Design for her efforts.

Lastly, thanks to all who use the site regularly, who cite us in online discussions, who help to spread the word. And especially, I would like to thank all who have donated to BBTI in the last year — your tangible contributions make a difference, and help to offset our ongoing costs.

Happy New Year!

 

Jim Downey

January 2, 2015 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, .450 SMC, Boberg Arms, Data, Discussion., Links | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boberg XR9-S: a new little brother for my XR45-S.

As Frank said on Facebook this afternoon:

I knew when you got the 45 you wanted the 9mm too. It was only a matter of time.

Guilty as charged. Look what followed me home today:

Lil brother

Yup, a Boberg XR9-S: a new little brother for my XR45-S. As I did in that post, I thought I’d put up some comparison pix to give a sense of just how small this gun is, even though it really doesn’t feel like it when you hold it or shoot it.

Here it is again with the XR45:

Lil brother 2

And here’s the view that shows the thickness of both:

Top

Yeah, there’s a difference. Here’s the XR9 with a Springfield EMP (also 9mm, 3″ barrel – the XR9 has a 3.35″ barrel):

W EMP

 

And with my J-frame in .38 Special:

W J-frame

For grins, here it is on top of the J-frame:

J Top

OK, but how about in comparison to the classic premium pocket 9mm, the Rohrbaugh R9? Here ya go:

W R9

The R9 *is* a fantastic little gun, and I love it. I don’t love shooting it, though. The XR9 wins in that category. It will also handle +P ammo and holds one more round (7+1) than the Rohrbaugh. But it is a bit bigger:

R9 Top

Lastly, here it is with a Bond Arms derringer — a great little gun, with a variety of different barrels available. But there’s still just two shots in the derringer, and it actually weighs about 3 ounces more.

W Bond

While I have shot this gun (it belonged to a good friend), and know it to be dependable, I do still want to make sure that it will be able to reliably digest my preferred SD loads. So more on that to come!

 

Jim Downey

December 26, 2014 Posted by | .45 ACP, .45 Super, 9mm Luger (9x19), Boberg Arms, Discussion. | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Boberg XR45

I’ve written about the innovative Boberg Arms XR9 previously. Here’s the take-away from my review:

This gun is a winner. It is well designed, and well made. The innovative design makes your brain hurt when you first see it. But the recoil is nothing like what you get from any other “pocket gun”, even when shooting full +P defensive ammunition. Usually with a pocket gun, you trade off the pain of shooting it a lot for the convenience of being able to carry it easily. With the Boberg, you don’t have to make that trade-off. I honestly wouldn’t be bothered at all by running a couple hundred rounds through this gun at the range.

Well, guess what followed me home today.

No, not an XR9. Something a little … bigger:

Case

Yup, one of the new XR45s.

Here’s a pic of one from my outing with the other BBTI guys a few weeks ago:

XR45S2

It’s a little hard to tell how big the gun is in that pic. Here it is with some others:

all 4

Starting in the upper left corner and going clockwise, those are: A Steyr S9 in 9mm, a Springfield EMP in 9mm, the Boberg XR45 in .45ACP, and a S&W J-frame in .38sp.

Here’s the Boberg back to back with the Steyr:

with S9

With the EMP:

with EMP

And with the J-frame:

with j-frame

And just for grins, here’s the Boberg with the J-frame sitting right on top of it:

on top

Yeah, the 6+1 Boberg is actually smaller than the three other compact pistols. And it has a longer barrel than all three — 3.75″ on the Boberg, compared to 3.5″ in the Steyr, 3.0″ in the EMP, and 1.875″ on the J-frame.

How does it do this? Because of the innovative … some would say just plain weird … way the feed mechanism works. For the best explanation, take a look at the animation on the Boberg homepage, but basically as the slide comes back, it grabs a new cartridge out of the magazine by the rim and then positions it into the chamber. Yeah, you put the bullets in the magazine nose first. Like this:

with mag

And here’s a detail of the top of the loaded mag:

mag loaded

It takes some getting used to, I admit.

Now, while the Boberg is actually smaller in overall size than the other guns, it still has some heft to it: 22 ounces, as opposed to both the Steyr and the EMP at 26. The J-frame shown is a Model M&P 360 with the Scandium frame, so it comes in under 14 ounces. All of those are unloaded weight.

How does it shoot? Like this:

“Not bad at all.”

That was with .45 ACP+P high-end self-defense rounds.

Since I just got mine, it will take a while to find out all the little quirks that it has. But based on shooting one a few weeks ago, and in a much longer session with the 9mm version, I have little doubt that I will be very pleased with it. I’ve already poked around my selection of holsters, and found that the XR45 fits perfectly into a little belt slide holster I have for my Glock 21 Gen 4, as well as into a Mika Pocket Holster I use for the J-frame.

Jim Downey

December 6, 2014 Posted by | .38 Special, .45 ACP, 9mm Luger (9x19) | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments