Boberg Arms 9mm, a whole lot of little. Testing the XR9-S and XR9-L


I remember reading about Boberg Arms a few years ago and some of the reviews were unfavorable.  Now I get it, no firearm is prefect but generally speaking today’s modern firearms are not all bad. Do I find some things I do not love with some guns? Yes but generally these are not deal breakers.

Anyway, I am the type of man that has to know for myself. I spoke with Boberg Arms at the NRA show and secured two test pistols so I could investigated this innovative design and see for myself.  Now if you are not familiar with Boberg Arms, they build an interesting pistol that in theory, works on similar principals of a bullpup rifle. The action is what they call the reverse feed design.  It is a small pistol designed specifically for carry and personal defense. What it really has going for it, through it’s design, is you get a longer barrel in a smaller package as compared to a conventional pistol. Boberg has an excellent animation of the inner working cut away of the function, and I linked to their site at the beginning of the article. Though several inches shorter than the Glock 26, they have almost the same barrel lengths. Direct comparison in the video portion below.


The rounds load in and from the magazine backwards.


As the slide retracts, two extractors pull the round out of the back of the magazine, at the end of the recoil stroke a lever pushes the round level, and as the slide goes into battery the round is fed into the chamber.

Why go through all this to design a pistol with this action? Like I said above, with the chamber over the magazine you can get a longer barrel into a much smaller package. The advantage to the longer barrel is, as the bullet travels down the bore, the expanding gas has more time to act on the bullet, increasing velocity. Increased velocity translates into more energy on target, flatter shooting, and more reliable expansion of defensive hollow points.  Now we all know there are no free lunches, so here comes the snags. First of all, you do loose a little sight radius over a similar barrel length pistol in the XR9-S, but this is not unique to the Boberg pistols. With concealed carry guns this is a common. Also Boberg pistols are ammunition sensitive. Fortunately the list of incompatibility is small and available on their website. Use the recommended ammunition and you will have no issues. Like I said, this is a very specialized and purpose built pistol.  If you follow the rules you can have a very small carry gun without sacrificing velocity.

Boberg-11 Boberg-10

I received two test guns from Boberg Arms, XR9-S Shorty Platinum and the XR9-L Long Onyx. They are interesting at the very least and surly are a lot of firepower in a small package. They are a double action only trigger with a 7 1/2 pound long trigger pull, very similar to a double action revolver. Even though it was a long DAO trigger, it still broke fairly clean. Each pistol can be had in either finish as well as a bi tone.

Boberg-9 Boberg-8

Both pistols had nice dovetailed three dot sights, nicer than I am used to seeing on many carry pistols.


The cocking serrations were deep enough to get a solid purchase on the slide, in order to rack it. On a side note the barrel locks and unlocks by rotating in the slide, so the recoil spring is more of an action spring. That spring’s primary function was to return the slide to battery.


The XR9-L has an integrated accessory rail. That is a nice touch on such a small defensive pistol as weapon mounted lights and lasers have become very popular.


The locking lugs on the barrel.


Due to magazine design, the Boberg XR9 series pistols do not lock the slide to the rear when the magazine is empty. To manually lock the slide to the rear, rack the slide and turn the take down lever 90 degrees, to field strip rotate that same lever 180 degrees and the slide easily is removed from the front.

I started the test with Hornady Critical Defense and Winchester Silvertips with a few magazines through both pistols to check function. The perceived recoil was definitely different, more of a push back. There is no recoil spring, per say, as recoil is mitigated by the rotating barrel and feed system. After I ran several different types of ammunition I had no issues, it was time to get the accuracy numbers and really put some rounds down range.

Initial Range Trip

Taking both pistols out to the range to check accuracy and reliability. After running about fifty rounds and completing the accuracy test I had gaining confidence in the reliability. I had no issues and accuracy was better than I expected, especially with the XR9-L. It was a short outing this trip but I had test ammunition coming in from several manufactures with plans to really wring the pistols out.

Boberg Accuracy

3 shot groups fired at 25 yards from a rest.

Second Range Trip


After running some 360 rounds of various defensive rounds as well as standard ball through both pistols with no problems I was of the opinion that using the suggested ammunition was key. Now I know it may be a bit off putting to some that the Boberg pistols are ammunition sensitive,  many specialty pistols also have rounds they like and don’t like. When you put such firepower in such a small package, it has to be designed to tolerances to make it work and with that the gun becomes much less forgiving and as we all know as you shrink the auto loader you have to be sure it is designed right. A few things I did not care for,  the slide not looking back on an empty magazine was the main complaint I had. I know I bring that up a bit, and for some people it is not a big deal, and that is not a unique feature to the Boberg as many other small defensive pistols work the same.  On the XR9-S, the magazine release is close to the left stock, you have to be aware of your thumb placement so you don’t inadvertently hit the magazine release. With a standard grip, you should not have any issues and it pays to have proper technique when shooting any handgun.  As far as a solid carry pistol that is easily concealable and chambered in 9mm Luger, Boberg makes a fine example of a pistol that will get the job done without sacrificing barrel length or reliability.


Specifications XR9-S

Caliber: 9mm / 9mm+P
Length: 5.1”
Height: 4.2”
Width: 0.96”
Weight: 17.4 oz with magazine
Barrel Length: 3.35”
Capacity: 7+1
Action: Rotating-Barrel Locked-Breech
Sights: Low-Profile, Dovetail Windage
Sight Radius: 4.4″
Trigger Pull: 7.5 lb DAO (standard)
Safeties: 2

Specifications XR9-L

Caliber: 9mm / 9mm+P
Length: 5.95”
Height: 4.2”
Width: 0.96”
Weight: 18.5 oz with magazine
Barrel Length: 4.2”
Capacity: 7+1
Action: Rotating-Barrel Locked-Breech
Sights: Low-Profile, Dovetail Windage
Sight Radius: 5.25″
Trigger Pull: 7.5 lb DAO (standard)
Safeties: 2


Boberg Arms


Winchester Ammunition.

By Hunter Elliott

I spent much of my youth involved with firearms and felt the call early on to the United States Marine Corps, following in my father's and his brother's footsteps. Just after high school I enlisted and felt most at home on the rifle range, where I qualified expert with several firearms and spent some time as a rifle coach to my fellow Marines. After being honorably discharged I continued teaching firearm safety, rifle and pistol marksmanship, and began teaching metallic cartridge reloading. In the late 1990s I became a life member to the National Rifle Association and worked with the Friends of the NRA. Around that time my father and I became involved with IDPA and competed together up until he passed away. I began reviewing firearms for publications in the mid 2000s and have been fortunate to make many friends in the industry. Continuing to improve my firearms skills and knowledge is a never ending journey in which we should all be committed. I am also credited as weapons master on a few independent films.

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