By Brian Jensen
Many people have seen or heard of Rohrbaugh Firearms. They made the first mini 9mm I ever heard of, the R-9. It was a 6+1 shot aluminum frame semi-auto that shook the firearms world at SHOT show in 2002 when the prototype was introduced. The gun came into full production in 2004, and then was named by Shooting Illustrated as Handgun the Year in 2005. It is a truly tiny package that they say is very easy to shoot.
I met the members of the Rohrbaugh Firearms team at SHOT show, and asked about how this all got started. According to Eric Rohrbaugh, his brother Karl, a firearms instructor with a background in machining from working with cars, saw the need for a new, more compact 9mm for defensive concealed carry. He and Eric put their heads together and designed a pistol small enough to conceal, that was made with quality in mind.
The first pistols were designed in .380, but they decided to go for a 9mm weapon when a competitor built a comparably sized .380. Basically, Eric Rohrbaugh said to me Karl said, “We have to make a nine now…” With that, Rohrbaugh Firearms made the R-9, the most concealable weapon of its kind, and one made to exacting, custom-level quality. They had to take the .380 design and change it by going from a blowback to a miniaturized locked breech action. They were successful, and the R-9 was born. (They do still make a .380 version.)
The R-6 frame, unlike many of the newer 9mm subcompacts now being made, is not constructed of plastic or polymer, but good old fashioned aircraft grade aluminum. The slide and barrel is 416 stainless steel. No MIM parts are used, and the only plastic I saw anywhere on the gun was the grips (OK, it’s Micarta…).
All guns are hand fitted, and any custom touches wanted by the customer are put into the gun as it is being made. They even have an in-house jeweler to polish any parts as needed. Only about 1000 are made a year, with only around 6000 total being produced. Customers or distributors must make orders, and wait for their gun to be made. Then again, this company is made up of four people working out of a factory in Brooklyn who make a quality weapon, all U.S. parts, and no corners cut.
New for this year at SHOT, we got to see some new models, colors, and an exciting new prototype.
First, the new Coyote Cerakoted pistols are out, with new grips added from well known grip manufacturer VZ. The combo looks very nice, and has black accents for the extractor and trigger. Another new model that is still in development, is the R-9 with a new sight system. The slide is still being tweaked to get the right enough amount of metal on the top to allow for dovetail cuts, but it is on its way. Rohrbaugh Firearms partnered with Wayne Novak to develop a set of Novak Lo Mount sights, with a brass bead front for the R-1. The sights got my greedy gland going, because it just looks that awesome in a two tone coyote – black scheme.
Next came the Tribute Model, a shiny stainless model with a blue carbon set of grips. This is a repeat to their earlier model from 2005, and will be a regular model from now on.
All guns come with a lifetime warranty for the original owner. Rohrbaugh told me he has several customers who tell him they have 5000+ rounds through the gun. (In fact they’ve tested guns with 5000 rounds through them and found no noticeable wear.) They do tell owners to change out the recoil spring every 250 rounds, but a spare spring comes with every gun when new.
One very exciting thing I saw was a prototype of a new .45 ACP Rohrbaugh pistol. The gun will use 1911 Officer-style mags and they have the frame conceptually finished, but not much else is finalized. While they already have dealers taking orders, they ask them to be patient. The production gun is still 1-2 years out, so it is definitely a work in progress.
If you want a quality, custom-level pistol for concealed carry, the Rohrbaugh R-9 is something I would look at. Fit and finish is outstanding, and the trigger smooth. This gun is 100% made in the USA, with all domestic parts. Rohrbaugh has avoided getting into all different kinds of gun models and types, and stuck to essentially one design, that they do to perfecting standards.