By Jacob Gottfredson, GUNS Magazine
The world is bursting at the seams with technology and advances in almost every field of endeavor. Is it any wonder that along comes a guy named Arne Boberg who spends years trying to solve the problem of handgun concealment while retaining the power of longer barreled pistols? Did he get it right?
As explained in a letter in the box with the pistol, “Arne Boberg saw a need for a small, more powerful firearm. He noticed that many manufacturers were taking their larger guns and cutting them down to make them smaller. Seeing that this made the firearms lose power and reliability, Boberg recognized that small firearms needed to be reinvented, not just repackaged.” Also, according to the letter, Arne spent several years developing the patented XRTM reverse-feeding mechanism.
Indeed, Boberg’s pistol is certainly an anomaly in the modern pistol genre. The one I am evaluating is designated the XR9-S. On the body of the pistol are the words, “Serial number S01199, 9mm Luger, Boberg Arms Corp., White Bear Lake, MN, USA.” Several models are available to include the “S” version for “Shorty” and the “L” version for “Long” in either all black, 2-tone or platinum. The long version also includes a rail to accept lights and/or laser devices.
I disassembled the pistol and sat there looking at it in wonder. I’m an engineer, but I have no idea how Arne figured this out. He had to keep the pistol small, yet keep the barrel is relatively normal in length—3.35 inches—somewhat longer than most pistols of its size.
Note that it is a full inch or more shorter than some of its competitors, is almost as light as the Ruger and has a barrel about as long as the Glock, which is much longer in overall length.
The grip/magazine is located under the breech, but still feels extremely comfortable in my hand. At first glance, it appears a bit odd, as though the grip had been misplaced. I found it exceedingly easy to fieldstrip, but I was a bit confused when trying to put it back together. A trip to the supplied manual fixed that. It is extremely easy to disassemble and assemble quickly. The parts are very well machined, and after taking it apart, I suspect quality control is watched closely. The pistol is double-action-only and the magazine holds seven rounds.
So how did Arne keep the overall length of the pistol so small and still keep the barrel long? He used a tong setup to extract a round from the magazine. It does that from the rearward position of the slide. Instead of the round being pushed from the magazine like most conventional pistols, the new round is extracted backward from the magazine. The tong, as I call it, has a slot on either side of it. The slot is pushed into the rim of the 9mm case. The tong then extracts the cartridge from the magazine and the slide carries it forward. The spent case is extracted a split second prior to that. Amazing!
What this system did was allow Arne to fashion a smaller O/A-length pistol while keeping the barrel as long as larger pistols. The gun was also made strong enough to allow shooting +P 9mm ammo. People poo-poo the 7+1 ammo amount, but it is difficult to develop a pistol small enough to conceal easily holding more rounds that is as slim. One of the major problems on a concealment pistol is grip length, which is why the Glock 26, 27 and the Ruger LD9 and others are so popular. Of course you can carry extended magazines as backup, but in the carry position, the shorter magazine is easier to conceal.
A right side view shows the extractor and a portion of the barrel. The sights
have tritium dots on the rear and the front blade. The slide is made from
billet stainless steel, the frame from billet 7075-T6 aluminum.
The Boberg XR9-S, though small in Jacob’s hands, shoots and reacts well.
It had a bit of a jump, as would be imagined for such a 9mm, but
Jacob could not fault the concept or performance.
I took the pistol to the range. Looking at the magazine, I thought loading ammo would be difficult. It was easy, but I found myself wanting to put the magazine in backwards. A few times at it, however, and it became second nature. Since the pistol pulls the case from the magazine, while others push the round from the magazine, it can be a bit confusing at first. A couple of friends showed up, and when I dissembled the pistol these guys, both engineers, were fascinated by how the piece functions.
Next, shooting the Boberg
I had two varieties of 9mm ammo, both from Black Hills. One was their 124-grain JHP, and the other was their 115-grain JHP +P. Boberg states some ammo will not function because the case is not crimped. The Black Hills’ case is, and we had no problem with the 50 rounds we shot. I did have two malfunctions, but neither were the fault of the pistol. You have to pull the slide all the way to the rear and release it quickly.
I had both friends shoot from 10 yards, five rounds at a time, from the standing, unsupported position. The trigger is reasonably light, and the company can supply springs for various pull weights. The change out is easy. Simply remove one side of the grip, remove the existing spring, insert the new one and replace the grip. The trigger pushes a relatively large hammer back until the sear releases it. My helpers had no trouble shooting decent groups from start to finish. Both are accomplished pistol shooters (which is why I had them help test the gun).
The pistol is easily disassembled, resulting in only six parts: the lower grip portion, the barrel, the magazine, the blocking mechanism, the recoil spring and the slide. The pistol also features a rotating barrel to which the blocking mechanism, just to the right of the magazine in the picture, marries to the barrel, forcing the barrel to rotate slightly during recoil. Near the rear of the slide you can see the tong (bronze in color) with slots that moves into the case’s rim. When the slide moves to the rear, the tong pulls the case from the magazine.
When Pete Hoffman, a lefty, took a turn, he posted a 5-round group,
a bit less than 2 inches with 9mm 124-grain Black Hills ammo.
The very first round out of the XR9-S at 10 yards standing unsupported!
Jacob told the shooter, Chris Devlin, to stop and Jacob removed the target.
Jacob hung a second target. At 10 yards, standing and unsupported, no one
could take much issue with these groups from a small pistol of the XR9-S’
size and DAO trigger. The black ring is only 2 inches.
For comparison, I had one of the fellows use the same ammo in his standard-size pistol. His 5-shot group was better, but not by much. Both were impressed with the Boberg. One of them slipped it in his front pocket. Knowing it was there, I still not could make it out. Since my wife’s mother was celebrating her 91st birthday in the big city, I stuck the Boberg in my front pocket and we took off to join the celebration. The streets were packed with tourists, bands, singers, painters, shopkeepers, etc. Not a soul knew I had the gun, not even the wife. It was no burden to carry at all.
The XR9 is pricey to be sure. Does it have any other cons? I struggle to say it did, if for no other reason than to say I am writing a fair article. One of the shooters for the trial is big and has big, meaty paws. The pistol jumps a bit, and he showed me that the rear was making little red marks at the point where the rear of the pistol contacts his hand. On the other hand, I am smaller and had no such problem.
Frankly, although the pistol is unusual, it is very well made and machined. I could not find fault with the finish, the mechanical parts or the functioning. It does take some amount of practice to master the gun, yet for what Arne was trying to accomplish, I give the Boberg very high marks. It is a marvel of engineering, innovation and quality.
By Jacob Gottfredson
Maker: Boberg Arms Corporation
1755 Commerce Ct
White Bear Lake, MN 55110
Barrel Length: 3.35 inches
Overall Length: 5.1 inches
Height: 4.2 inches
Width: 0.96 inches
Weight: 17.4 ounces
Sights: Low-profile tritium night sights
Price: $1,349 (tested), $995 (Standard)
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