November 2007

9mm Self-Defense Autoloaders: CZ’s Rami 2075 P Is a Bargain

We also think H&Ks squeeze-cocked P7 PSP is worth the money, if you dont mind the weight of a steel-framed gun, but wed pass on the light Kel-Tec PF-9, despite its low price tag.

Shooters like 9mm pistols for many reasons, chief among them being their reputation for manageable recoil with at least minimum acceptable stopping power for a self-defense cartridge. Also, 9mm guns can be made small and flat, which makes them suitable for comfortable concealed carry.

The Heckler & Koch P7 PSP

The Heckler & Koch P7 PSP, $795, used a squeeze-cocking design to make the first shot fast and on target. We liked the small-frame H&K 9mm better than similarly sized guns from Kel-Tec and CZ, though the Czech Republic product scored pretty high in our tests as well.

We bought a trio of such guns at Fountain Firearms in Houston. They were of relatively similar size, but different in almost every other way—and these differences made an impression on our testers that affected how we graded the pistols.

The Heckler & Koch P7 PSP, $795, used a squeeze-cocking design in its fine single action design. The P7 PSP is a single-stack design with an eight-round magazine.

The CZ 2075 Rami P is a sub-compact semi-automatic based on the CZ 75 line of pistols. The trigger mechanism operates in selective DA and SA mode, depending on the shooter’s preferences. Several safety devices are used, including a firing-pin block and a manual safety. Incorporating the CZ double-stack magazine design, the Rami P accommodates 10 rounds of 9mm Luger plus one in the chamber. With a 3-inch barrel and unloaded weight of less than 25 ounces, the black polycoat alloy frame Rami P seems ideal for concealed carry. MSRP is $541, but ours cost $495 at Fountain.

The Kel-Tec PF-9, $335, easily fit in our pocket and was the lightest pistol tested. It had a 7+1 capacity, only one fewer than the HK. The rear two-dot sights were the same size as the CZ’s (a little on the small side), but the front white dot sight was larger, which most of our shooters preferred. It was the only pistol in the test that had an accessories rail.

How We Tested

Our test ammos included a mixture of self-defense ball ammo and hollowpoints. From Sellier & Bellot we chose 115-grain full metal jackets, which cost $9.95 per 50. For $21.95/20, we bought Federal Premium Personal Defense 105-grain expanding FMJs No. PD9CSP2 H. Our third round was Hornady’s 147-grain TAP FPD, which stands for Tactical Application Police For Personal Defense. It cost $27.75 per 25-round box. The TAP hollowpoints sat atop black, nickel-coated cases and used low-flash propellents to minimize muzzle flash.

The H&K and CZ guns shot the rounds similarly, with average group sizes well under 2 inches at 15 yards. The Kel-Tec shot two ammos in the 3-inch range.

Specifically, the H&K P7 PSP was the most accurate with the Sellier & Bellot rounds (1.5-inch groups on average), followed by the CZ (1.9-inch groups on average) and the Kel-Tec (2.0-inch groups on average). The Kel-Tec, however, developed the most velocity and energy with the ball ammo, recording 1132 fps average velocities and 327 ft.-lbs. energy readings compared to the H&K (1124 fps/323 ft.-lbs.) and the Rami (1107 fps/313 ft.-lbs.)

With the Federals, the H&K and CZ tied, shooting 1.5-inch groups on average. The Kel-Tec didn’t like this ammo, shooting 3.1-inch groups. With this ammo, the H&K narrowly developed the most velocity and energy (1175 fps/322 ft.-lbs.), followed by the Kel-Tec (1173 fps/321 ft.-lbs.) and the Rami (1156 fps/312 ft.-lbs.)

Filled with TAPs, the H&K shot 1.4-inch groups on average, the best of the test, followed by the CZ at 1.8 inches and the Kel-Tec with 2.9-inch groups. Velocities for this round were close to the factory’s published specs of 975 fps, with the Kel-Tec generating the most velocity and power (951 fps/322 ft.-lbs.), followed by the CZ (929 fps/282 ft.-lbs.) and the P7 (924 fps/279 ft.-lbs.).

Of course, there were other distinguishing characteristics we liked and didn’t like about each gun, which we detail below:

Heckler & Koch P7 PSP 9mm, $795

Heckler & Koch began developing a new self-loading compact pistol around 1971 before bringing out the PSP (Polizei Selbstlade-Pistole, or Police Self-loading Pistol) for the West German Police in 1976. Production of the PSP started in 1979.

Our test gun was a standard PSP, whose overall length was 6.5 inches with a 4.1-inch barrel and a sight radius of 5.9 inches. The gun measured 5.0 inches in overall height and weighed 30.4 ounces with an empty magazine, relatively heavy because of the low-profile steel slide and steel frame. Our test gun came in a black case with two magazines and bore brush.

As noted above, it carried 8+1 rounds in its single-stack orientation, which gave the gun a thin 1.4-inch maximum width and a grip circumference of 6.2 inches at the thickest part of the grip. The frontstrap, measured from the top of the squeeze-cock lever to the lip of the magazine, ran 2.6 inches in length. The backstrap was 4.0 inches long, measured from the bottom of the slide to the top of the magazine release button. The blued frame finish showed very minor wear marks near the muzzle and on the squeeze-cock lever. Cosmetically, the only jarring note on the gun was the slot-screw head on the left side. It had lost its black finish, and the white metal color popped out against the stippled black-polymer grip panel.

The most notable feature of the gun is the squeeze-cock lever, or in HK parlance the cocking lever. To load the pistol, the shooter locks the slide back and inserts a loaded magazine. When he squeezes the cocking lever, the slide will slam forward and the firing pin will extend out of the back of the slide. The pistol is now ready to fire. The cocking lever allows the P7 to be carried safely with a round in the chamber, yet it is ready to fire by the natural tightening of the fingers around the grip. Releasing the cocking lever decocks the P7 immediately and renders it safe.

This pistol worked well for left-handed shooters because the cocking lever is ambidextrous. One panelist complained that the squeeze-cocking lever makes a fairly loud sound when released. It can be distinctly heard through a closed bedroom door at the far end of a house 50 feet away, but it cocks quietly, and once you have shot it, the de-cocking sound would be inconsequential.

There are actually three ways to fire the pistol, but only one is recommended (squeezing the cocking lever first and then pulling the trigger). You can also fire the pistol by pulling the trigger first and then squeezing the cocking lever and by squeezing and pulling at the same time, but it is very difficult to accurately shoot the pistol with these methods, but we did try them and they do work.

Once the pistol is cocked, it takes about 1.5 pounds of pressure to keep it cocked. As long as you keep a good grip on the pistol, it is immediately ready to shoot after it cycles. The trigger pull stacks somewhat, but is smooth and most judged it to be the best in the test. The trigger pull weight registered action 4.0 pounds on our scale, and the single-action trigger span was 2.9 inches.

The PSP had a European-style magazine-release button located on the bottom of the frame, whereas the P7M8 and P7M13 have the magazine release located on both sides of the frame just to the rear of the trigger guard. Most of our panel said they would prefer to have the magazine release located on the side of the frame, but one of our shooters pointed out that it is much more likely for the magazine release button to be accidentally depressed when it is located on the side instead of the bottom of the pistol. The pistol can be fired with the magazine removed.

Our test panelists liked the three-dot sights and the grooved slide top on the PSP best. Both sights were dovetailed into the slide, so they could easily be changed out if the shooter chose to upgrade them.

HK describes the gun’s action as a recoil-operated retarded inertia bolt system. In the gas cylinder, the propellant gas acts upon the piston, which retards the rearward motion of the slide until the bullet has left the barrel. Once the bullet has left the barrel, the decrease in gas pressure on the piston allows the slide to move rearward, ejecting the empty cartridge case. The recoil spring then moves the slide forward, chambering the next round.

At the range, we found the HK fed and functioned flawlessly. The brass was thrown out of the pistol nearly twice as far as the other two pistols tested, between 7 and 8 feet. This pistol left unique marks on the brass because of its fluted chamber. The fluted chamber is designed to increase reliability. HK states that, "… the P7 pistol will extract and eject an empty shell even if the extractor is missing." The extractor also acts as a loaded-chamber indicator. Recently, we had an extractor break on a Glock, and it was out of service until we replaced the extractor. The only possible drawback we can see with a fluted chamber is that it may prevent you from reloading the brass, but we think the increase in reliability is worth it.

The P7 with its fixed cold hammer forged polygonal barrel was the most accurate pistol in the test. It also had the least felt recoil. The weight of the pistol certainly helped dampen the recoil, but so did its gas system (which needs to be cleaned every 500 rounds or 12 months).

CZ 2075 Rami P 9mm, $495

We tested the CZ USA 2075 Rami pistol in the February 2007 issue and liked it, so when we saw a new polymer-frame version of the pistol, we decided to take a closer look.

Our test gun’s overall length, like the P7, was 6.5 inches, but the CZ had a 3.0-inch barrel and a sight radius of 5.0 inches. The gun measured 5.2 inches in overall height and weighed 24.6 ounces with an empty magazine. It came in a blue case with two 14-round magazines, a flush-fit 10-round magazine, a bore brush, a magazine loader, a cable lock, and a separate adjustable rear sight.

It carried 10+1 or 14+1 rounds in its staggered magazines, which gave the gun a 1.1-inch grip width and a grip circumference of 5.5 inches at the thickest part of the grip. However, the widest part of the gun, 1.3 inches, was across the safety levers. The frontstrap, measured from the bottom of the rear end of the trigger guard to the lip of the magazine, ran 2.25 inches in length. The backstrap was 4.1 inches long, measured from the bottom of the beavertail, along the frame, to the bottom of the magazine extension. There were no wear marks or finish problems with the black polymer frame, stippled black-polymer grips, or the black polycoat steel slide.

The polymer version was about 2 ounces heavier than the alloy-frame 2075, much heavier than the 12.7-ounce Kel-Tec, but lighter than the 30-ounce P7. The frame size was virtually identical to the PF-9, only wider, because it is a double-stack.

We liked the traditional double-action design, but several shooters felt a de-cocker would be a great improvement. They felt uncomfortable squeezing the trigger while slowly lowering the hammer on a live round. However, you can carry the pistol cocked and locked, but the ambidextrous thumb safety does not have a ridge that extends out, so it is not nearly as positive as taking the safety off on a standard 1911 thumb safety. You can also carry the pistol with a round in the chamber and the hammer in the half cock position.

Concealment Guns

In a concealment gun, size matters a lot, especially the thickness measurement. From left to the right are the H&K P7, CZ, and Kel-Tec guns. The PF-9 was only 0.9 inches thick at the grip.

The pistol came with one 10-round magazine that is flush with the bottom of the grip and two 14-round magazines that extend the grip about an inch. The longer grip is more comfortable and accommodates all of the fingers. However, the pistol was very controllable with the shorter magazine. We could comfortably fit the pistol with the extended magazine into our Woolrich Discreet Carry pants with large pockets, but if you wanted to wear standard pants you would probably need to use the shorter magazine.

The optional three-dot night sights are smaller than the standard white sights on the HK P7 but are adequate. The model with standard sights is $100 less. To our surprise we found adjustable sights in the box with the pistol. Normally, when you buy a pistol with night sights you don’t expect to get adjustable sights as well, but CZ USA gives you a lot for the money. Front and rear sights are dovetailed so they can easily be changed out if you do not like them.

The gun had a relatively heavy rigger pull weight in double action of 10.8 pounds and a trigger span in double action of 3.1 inches. Much better was its single-action trigger pull—6.8 pounds—which had a little sponginess just before let-off.

Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm, $335

This was the shortest gun in the test, with an OAL of 5.9 inches with a 3.0-inch barrel and a sight radius of 4.6 inches.It stood 4.75 inches tall and weighed 12.7 ounces with an empty magazine. It came in a box with one magazines and a lock.

It carried 7+1 rounds in its magazine, and was only 1 inch wide across the slide, 0.9 inch wide across the grip, and 5.0 inches around at the thickest part of the grip. The frontstrap was 1.9 inches long and the backstrap was 3.1 inches long, measured from the bottom of the beavertail, along the frame, to the bottom of the magazine. There were no finish problems.

Other Kel-Tec pistols we have tested have usually had a good combination of low price and good quality, but we couldn’t recommend this one at any price.

This harsh initial assessment comes despite our recognition of the PF-9’s qualities. For instance, the PF-9 easily fit in a pants or jacket pocket and was the lightest pistol tested. Offsetting this size advantage, however, is its 7+1 capacity, but we didn’t dock the gun for that—some compromises have to be made for carry comfort.

Elsewhere, the rear two-dot sights were the same size as the CZ’s (a little on the small side), but the front white dot sight was larger, which most shooters preferred. Only the rear sight was dovetailed.

It was the only pistol in the test that had a rail, but felt the rail was not needed on a pistol of this size. The pistol only came with one magazine, but it did come with an optional extended magazine floor plate. Even with the extended magazine floor plate installed, the grip was the shortest and least comfortable of the guns tested, we thought.

What we couldn’t tolerate was the trigger function. The trigger was the longest and heaviest of those tested, but we could have gotten used to it, if it were not for what we consider to be a design flaw. We believe in properly resetting the trigger after each shot to increase accuracy. After we fire a pistol we hold the trigger to the rear of the trigger guard and then release it forward until a click is heard, and then we apply steady pressure for the next shot. If you try that with this pistol, you will only hear a click instead of a bang.

According to the Kel-Tec manual on page 12 under the subhead "Malfunctioning," a misfire is most likely the result of faulty ammunition. Then, the manual continues, "Another potential cause is that the trigger was not allowed to fully reset after firing. The hammer is then dropped from the hammer block, which will not fire the cartridge."

Once that happens the only thing you can do is rack the slide, chambering a new round (if there is one left in the magazine) and pull the trigger again. To avoid the problem, when you are resetting the trigger you must continue to release the trigger past the first click and listen for the second click, then you can pull the trigger again and the gun will fire.

In practice, this adds a sluggishness to the gun that we simply can’t recommend to GT readers. We tried some rapid-fire strings with all the pistols tested. The HK was the fastest with the CZ not far behind, but the Kel-Tec was much slower, and in at least one in three strings we experienced a misfire because of the poor trigger design and the 7.9-pound double action trigger pull.

We invited many shooters to try out the pistol without warning them about the trigger design, and half of them experienced misfires. We also had one failure to feed, but did not experience any failures on the other two pistols tested.

This pistol had the most felt recoil and was the least accurate—we suspect because of the heavy trigger.

ACCURACY AND CHRONOGRAPH DATA

HECKLER & KOCH P7 PSP 9MM

CZ 2075 RAMI P 9MM

KEL-TEC PF-9 9MM

GUN TESTS REPORT CARD