The Boberg XR9 Shorty is a small-frame semi-automatic pistol chambered in 9mm and 9mm +P. The company says that the Shorty is “the world’s most powerful 9mm pocket pistol.” It is designed with some pretty heavy duty materials such as a 7075-T6 aluminum alloy for the frame, which was actually designed for planes in the 40s because of its lightweight and toughness. The material has since become a favorite for building other modes of transportation like cars, bikes, hang gliders, et cetera. Most other components on the Shorty are of stainless steel construction.
The Shorty features a double-action only trigger that sets off the action with a 5.5-pound pull. It has a locked-breech system with a rotating barrel meaning the gun fixed to the frame until it discharges a round. As the slide goes back the barrel will rotate instead of tilting. This design helps improve accuracy. The locked-breech means that the slide absorbs the backwards force rather than the frame. This is beneficial for heavier loads.
Boberg recommends the Shorty for concealed-carry and self-defense.
|Sights:||Adjustable dovetail rear sight and fixed front|
|Features:||Rotating barrel locked breech operating system|
|Slide Material:||Stainless steel|
|Frame Material:||7075-T6 Aluminum alloy/black|
|Trigger Pull:||5.5 pounds|
Editor ReviewSome years back, one of my BBTI buddies sent me a link to an article about a new style pistol being made by Arne Boberg. It was basically a “bullpup” design, which positions the barrel and receiver further back on your hand.
“Weird,” I said.
“I ordered one,” said my buddy. He’s always loved weird, innovative guns.
“What do you think the chances are you’ll ever actually see it?” My buddy’s love of weird, innovative guns means that he frequently places advanced orders for pipe-dreams that never see the light of day.
“I dunno. But it could be cool.”
When a Dream Comes True
Well, now we have. Boberg announced that they would start shipping a few weeks ago. My buddy got a call to come pick his up this week. Serial number in the very low double digits.
Of course, I had to try it out myself, and write it up for Guns.com. Luckily, we’d already planned a get together of three-quarters of the BBTI team to sort out some issues for a big re-design of our website. Meaning my buddy picked up his gun, and we went out to shoot it for the first time the next day.
We loaded up some ammo, went out to our test site (private property which has an old railroad-tie cabin we use as a backstop). I taped some targets to the wall, we backed off 10 yards.
Then we opened the case for the Boberg. Jim K actually got out the instruction manual and opened it. I admired his restraint. Steve and I, of course, got the handgun and a magazine out of the case, and started looking at it. We were blown away at its unusual design.
“Look,” said Steve. “They sent you a defective magazine. It doesn’t have a follower.”
“No, wait – that’s here in the manual. It isn’t supposed to have one. You just insert the cartridges nose first.”
“Nose first. And they’re angled down the opposite from normal.”
“Because it’s picked up on the back stroke, then push up and forward into the chamber.”
It’s small. But it’s big. It’s ... weird:
OK, this is a weird gun. Much about it is counter-intuitive at first.
In actual size, it has almost the exact same profile as a Rohrbaugh R9, a gun I own and like quite a lot. The Rohrbaugh is about a quarter-inch thinner, and weighs about four ounces less. But because of the design of the Boberg, it has a barrel that is almost half an inch longer than the Rohrbaugh, and the recoil is really completely different (and much more pleasant). And that’s even shooting full-power +P loads out of the XR9-S, whereas the R9 is limited to standard-pressure 9mm rounds.
Appearance & Design
The first thing almost everyone notices is that the front of the barrel is in line with the trigger guard. Your instinct is that this means you’ve got a barrel that is about 1.5". But the truth is, the barrel is 3.35". That’s because of the bullpup design. This means that the barrel actually extends back over your hand, and the balance of the gun feels really odd at first.
You can best see this if you line up the Rohrbaugh and the Boberg so the triggers are in the same position. The Rohrbaugh extends about an inch out from your hand, whereas the Boberg is balanced on top of it. The two-tone design is pretty common these days, with a nice brushed metal slide over the black polymer body.
The fit and finish are quite good, as you would expect from a pistol just shy of the $1000 price point. And yes, the magazines (you get two with the gun) do not have a follower. ‘That is just wrong!’ your mind screams when you first see it. But when you see how the rounds, going in nose first, snap into place, you realize that it’s a feature, not a bug. Because no follower means the magazine is more efficient in using space. You can easily load 7 rounds into it. But there is no doubt that you can’t load 8.
Pull the trigger and the wide, flat external hammer cocks back smoothly. This was right out of the box, being shot for the first time. It is a long trigger pull, as you would expect on a DAO pistol, but there’s no feeling of ‘staging’ or roughness.
When the hammer trips, and the gun fires, you instantly see the huge advantage of the XR9: recoil management. Not only does the rotating lock-breech design help, so does the position of the barrel and the slide mechanism. It doesn’t feel like it slams back into your hand. Frankly, it feels much more like you’re shooting a compact 9mm rather than a very small pocket gun. Seriously, the recoil feels more like shooting my Steyr S9 – it is a huge, huge improvement over the recoil from my Rohrbaugh R9 or any of the micro-.380s.
Straight out of the box, it did well. The first 15 or 20 rounds of the Winchester practice ammo had some minor glitches with the gun not going completely into battery. A quick pop to the back of the slide was sufficient to close it tight. And after about 20 rounds, we didn’t have any further problems whatsoever.
Further, we tested it with three different premium defensive ammunitions: Cor-Bon 115 grain +P JHP, Speer Gold Dot Hollow Points (Short Barrel) 124 grain +P, and Federal 147 grain Hydra-shok JHP. All three fed and fired without a problem for all three of the testers.
The 3-dot sights are good, easy to use in daylight. The sight design is relatively low profile, intended for combat purposes. That said they’re probably more than is needed for a pocket pistol.
And the front sight fell off about two-thirds the way through our tests. The small setscrew evidently wasn’t tight enough, and we didn’t have an Allen wrench with us that fit it. But frankly, it really wasn’t needed – we all shot the gun about as well at 10 yards without the front sight as we did with it. I think this might be the only change I would recommend on the gun: get rid of the mounted sights altogether, just cut a groove in the top of the slide, or do some other minimal sight.
As I’ve said before, I am not the world’s best shot. I won’t win any tournaments anywhere. My self-defense guns are good, reliable, and I am happy if I can ding a 6" steel at 25 yards with them. I don’t particularly care for bench shooting, and super accuracy has never held much appeal for me – it’s fine if others want that, but I tend to think of guns and their use as more dynamic.
So what I look for is “shootability” rather than some ideal accuracy. And the XR9-S did this in spades. All three of us were shooting groups of 4" to 6" at 10 yards without a problem. And this was with a brand new, somewhat unusually balanced gun none of us had handled before. We were all fairly certain that a couple hundred rounds of practice would result in greatly improved accuracy on our parts.
One thing we all noticed was that with the different 115-grain rounds, we were all shooting consistently low. Going to the 124-grain and 147-grain JHPs tended to correct this. Again, I think this is more a matter of learning how a particular gun shoots with a particular type of ammo.
All three of us are long-time shooters. All three of us have handled and shot a huge range of guns over the course of our lives. All three of us loved the Boberg Shorty.
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 guns, 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.
I like my Rohrbaugh 9mm. It is a sweet, sweet gun. And it is thinner than the Boberg. I won’t be getting rid of it. But if I also had a Boberg XR9-S, I know which one would get carried, and shot, the most.