Rock Island Armory’s AL9.0 9mm Revolver: An Elegant Weapon From a More Civilized Age

Rock Island Armory’s AL9.0 is a six-shot 9mm revolver. The combination of the most popular cartridge in the world with the revolver is an unexpected pleasure. The steel frame gives weight to the gun and the low recoil makes it very smooth shooting. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster, the AL9.0 will shoot six rounds of 9mm as fast as you can run the trigger. Need more? The AL9.0 reloads quickly with full moon clips.

A couple of features jump out immediately. The textured rubber grips are comfortable and provide good control for positive recoil management. The high-visibility orange front sight and windage adjustable rear sights are a perfect combination. The AL9.0 comes in a three-inch barrel bridging the gap between the snub nose and four-inch models.

9mm Ammunition and Full Moon Clips

The 9mm Luger cartridge is shorter than a traditional revolver round. This gives you more effective barrel length in the same size gun. Full moon clips loaded with 9mm cartridges are short and easy to carry.

9mm has a higher muzzle velocity, higher energy than .38 Special when shot out of a small revolver. 9mm ammunition is cheaper and easier to find than .38 Special or .357 rounds. I like the fact that I don’t have to store another caliber to shoot a revolver in class.

Most revolvers use a rimmed cartridge. This means that there is a flange at the base of the cartridge with a radius that is greater than the case wall. This suspends the cartridge from the breech face and provides a surface for the firearm’s extractor to pull a fired cartridge case out of the chamber.

The 9mm has a rim for extraction, but its radius doesn’t extend beyond the case wall, which is why moon clips are used by the AL9.0. Full moon clips serve as speed loaders allowing quick insertion of an entire cylinder full of ammo at once. They also help extract all the rounds at the same time with a simple push of the ejector rod.

Moon clips are flat metal stampings usually made to hold rounds without a rim. They were invented to hold .45 ACP rounds in the Colt and S&W 1917 revolvers made for military use.

Full moon clips are inexpensive and you can buy a bunch of them. This is great because they can be damaged when inserting cartridges into them or removing empty cases. The AL9.0 comes standard with two moon clips and a moon clip stripper tool that makes removing cases simple.

Revolvers: Pro and Con

Some people see revolvers as obsolete. I find them relevant and interesting. I first encountered revolvers in law enforcement as simple concealable backup guns for undercover agents. I learned about revolvers from the senior guys who grew up with them. The advantages they had then are still advantages now.

Revolvers are more mechanically complex than semi-auto pistols. While semi-autos are dependent on a careful balance of springs, recoil force and shooter; the moving parts of the revolver are mostly internal and unaffected by the environment or the operator. You can shoot them inside a pocket.

Twelve rounds fast at 7 yards.

Loading and unloading a revolver is pretty straight forward and does not require a separate operation to chamber a round. Revolvers tend to be far more reliable than semi-autos. There’s no safety lever no de-cocker, no slide or magazine release.

Many semi-auto pistols are single action. This means that they require a separate activity to cock the hammer by pulling the pistol slide or firing. If you pull the trigger on a loaded revolver, it cocks and fires. This is called double action. Immediate action? Keep pulling that trigger.

Many shooters feel that a double-action trigger provides more control and the longer pull makes unintended discharges less likely. Trainers like Ernest Langdon recommend double action for self-defense and law enforcement applications. The video below shows semi-automatic pistols, but the same principles apply.

Cleaning and maintenance is simple. Revolvers are complicated on the inside, but the user just needs to clean the cylinder and barrel. The rest is just wiping of carbon and adding lubrication.

Overall, costs can be lower. There are many solid, good quality revolvers available, both new and used on GunsAmerica. They can usually be had for less than a semiautomatic pistol of comparable quality. Moon clips are cheaper than magazines. With a 9mm revolver, less expensive ammunition is also a factor.

The grip is different on revolvers. You can lock your thumbs and hold a higher grip on a revolver than a semi-auto. This puts your wrist closer to the axis of recoil allowing faster and more accurate follow-up shots.

There are some obvious disadvantages to revolvers. They hold fewer rounds than a semi-auto of similar size and are slower to reload. In a self-defense situation, many would argue that this isn’t an issue. Revolvers tend to have more perceived recoil than semiautomatic pistols as there is no spring and slide mechanism to absorb energy.

Effective Self Defense Ammunition

One of the concerns about small guns is that a short barrel produces lower muzzle velocities and less energy. This can result in hollow points which do not expand and reduced terminal effect. SIG specially crafted 365 V-Crown Handgun Ammo to provide superior terminal performance in short-barreled concealed carry handguns.

SIG makes the 365 line of service and practice ammunition specifically loaded for short barrels. They offer ballistically matched self-defense JHP rounds and less expensive FMJ for practice.

The innovative V-Crown bullet features a stacked hollow-point with a wide opening along with a V-shaped jacket scored to expand at all effective distances and velocities. A locking grove around the bullet holds the jacket to the core ensuring maximum weight retention for optimum penetration. Performance ammunition is expensive.

To reduce the cost of training, SIG ballistically matched its cost-effective 365 Elite Performance FMJ ammunition to the 365 V-Crown. The FMJ load uses bullets of the same weight and shape, as well as the same powder charges to ensure an identical point of impact, recoil, and cycling as the V-Crown personal defense load.

Shooting the AL9.0

Range work was a joy with the AL9.0. When I first picked it up, the trigger was rather heavy. Reading the manual, I saw the trigger spring adjustment. It seems that they ship the gun with the tension set high. It is a simple matter to remove the grip and adjust the screw to a tension that makes the trigger more manageable.

I kept the AL9.0 by the couch and dry fired for a couple of weeks. With double action guns, I find that repeated dry fire will smooth out the action. The more you shoot, the better it gets.

Accuracy was perfectly acceptable with the several rounds I tried. ARMSCOR 9mm FMJ worked great out to 25 yards with very manageable recoil. The trigger reset makes shooting a full cylinder flow.

I once read that shooting a semi-auto is like marching in goose step while shooting a revolver is like dancing the waltz. The AL9.0 sets a pleasant rhythm that revolver shooters know very well.

Twelve rounds slow at 25 yards.

This new 9mm revolver was released along with two sister models in .357 Magnum with two-inch barrels, one with a blued finish and the other in stainless. MSRP on the Rock Island Armory AL 9.0 is $599.

You only get six rounds before the reload, but you can make them count. The big red insert in the front sight points fast and hits where you want it to. The rear is adjustable for windage. AL9.0 quickly provides effective hits out to 25 yards and reloads fast with a full moon clip. What more can you ask from a short-barreled handgun?

This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age. – Obi-Wan Kenobi

For more information visit Armscor website.

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About the author: Mark Miller is a former Customs Agent and a Green Beret who served in Afghanistan and a number of other live fire locations. A student of firearms and shooting, he is an FFL and a SOT. The guiding philosophy of his life is that terrain and situation dictate tactics and the enemy always gets a vote on any plan.

{ 20 comments… add one }
  • Mike Kenny February 13, 2022, 2:42 pm

    Is it okay to dry fire without caps?

  • BORA OZBEK December 18, 2020, 9:04 pm

    Like to buy one Rock Island AL.9 9mm Revolver whenever it is available

  • Gary Edwards December 4, 2020, 9:01 pm

    KMacK is correct. Additionally, given that the 9mm is a bit shorter than the .38, you even have a bit of extra barrel “length” in the cylinder itself. While logically one would think the velocity would be higher with the semi’s closed chamber/barrel and the revolver would lose gases at the cylinder barrel interface, often the revolver has better numbers due to the “free bore” (unrifled part of cylinder and forcing cone) that allows for speeding up of the bullet before it engages the rifling which can slow it down.

  • Doe Wilhelms September 8, 2020, 12:45 pm

    Just came back from the range first time shooting my AL9. 3” grouping at 5 yards SA. I’m one of the many women first time owner/purchaser this year. one thing I learned today was. bring more ammo 😉 Tried the Rutgers GP100 .22, S&W 686 & Springfield 1911. All really nice guns. Loved the Ruger & Smith but the DA was heavy, for me and I wasn’t willing to spend the extra to adjust the Ruger trigger because even though I have large hands I couldn’t manage the hammer to be safe and comfortable with the gun. The 1911, again, rack the slide, my old hands just don’t have the strength anymore. Yes, I know, grab and push. Just didn’t feel comfortable and case of a jam. No thank you. I prefer a good kitchen knife over a Cuisen Art. So, when I saw the Rock Island AL9 offered locally I went to have a look/feel.

    The Czech made gun was balanced, well constructed, decent sites, super manageable reach and pull hammer, surprisingly smooth, not heavy, trigger. The only small disappointment was the grip. A tad short, if I can change out with the Hogue mono it will be a match made in heaven.

    For a home defense revolver under $600 I’m very satisfied and look forward to getting back to the range for DA practice.

    Happy and safe shooting everyone 🇺🇸

  • John D. Fortier August 10, 2020, 9:47 pm

    August 10, 2020: These 9mm revolvers are hard to come by. I finally found one locally in Boise, ID at Impact Guns. It was obvious why this firearm hadn’t sold . . . the red ramp front sight inset was missing. Not a good sign, but I will give them the benefit of the doubt. Ordered one from their Salt Lake City branch.

  • Rubi July 3, 2020, 11:11 pm

    Can my J frame Smith and Wesson 357 snub nose shoot 9MM ammo with a moon clip?

  • Altoids July 3, 2020, 10:31 am

    Up next, a .45 ACP version?
    I’d buy one if they did that.

  • Zupglick July 3, 2020, 9:37 am

    I’ll keep my 629, thanks. For self defense I’ll keep my semi-auto with 13 rounds.

  • Donald Silvernail June 29, 2020, 10:11 pm

    Most 9mm revolver cylinders are much longer than the actual 9mm round – like .38spl. length cylinder and frame just converted to 9mm. A revolver with a cylinder just long enough to accomodate the 9mm round with a frame to match would result in a more compact weapon with all the fat removed.

  • Godfrey Daniel June 29, 2020, 5:27 pm

    Elegant? A Colt Python is elegant, A S&W Model 19 is elegant, a Colt King Cobra is elegant, a S&W Model 29 is elegant. This gun is functional and there’s nothing wrong with that, but elegant, with that flat black finish? Nah, not even close.

  • Mark Miller June 29, 2020, 10:35 am

    MSRP on the Rock Island Armory AL 9.0 is $599.

  • Thos Reagor June 29, 2020, 9:57 am

    Most people miss the point of a revolver chambered in 9×19: they shoot lead full wad cutters. ‘Nuf said !

    • RJ July 3, 2020, 10:10 am

      I agree that full wadcutters are great rounds – that flat front and sharp shoulder do a lot of damage – no need to worry about expansion – or recoil.
      But just to clarify, are you referring to .38 wadcutters or 9mm in your comment about missing the point? My first thought was that you were saying .38 wadcutters are better than any 9mm round for a revolver, but on second thought I wasn’t sure.
      Does anyone make a readily available 9mm full wadcutters?

  • Old OutdoorsGuy June 29, 2020, 9:43 am

    Adding a few more questions, the yellow “flier” from RIA shows the rear sight as being “Adjustable” while the spec. column shows the rear sight as “Fixed”. I don’t understand the confusing verbiage? And, unless my old eyes missed the MSRP somewhere in the write-up, and, unless it was a printing oversight, that sends up a red flag in my limited wallet for purchase of any revolver unless it is not meant to be competitive with the old “snake guns” of last century, Colt Python particularly.

    And I also wonder WTF is a “cut” and an “uncut” barrel and what significance in the general specifications does cutting off 1″ of barrel make in the way the world turns that it should be mentioned on any spec. sheet for any type of gun?? And speaking of “WTF”, I seem to remember, from way back in the 50’s, the cylinder carriage being called either that or the “cylinder rack”. Has the gun world, one of the few environments in which an old outdoors type of guy can still feel relatively safe in using lingo with which he was trained to use when learning all about pistols, come to this now?

    Do we have to attach glitzy “retro” tags like “cylinder tilting console” to a gun part we all already know “tilts” the cylinder out on its “*architectural member projecting from a **wall to form a bracket***”??

    * – carriage
    ** – or frame
    *** – Definition taken in part from the Merriam Webster dictionary

    [Or is it a fancy way of saying “here is a way “*to alleviate the grief or sense of loss” for the perpetrator who has broken into my home at Odark30 to try to steal my guns and received a lead sandwich for his trouble???]

    * – Also taken in part from the same dictionary

    • KMacK June 29, 2020, 1:47 pm

      I think the sights are windage adjustable but not elevation adjustable, at least that’s what it looks like in the pictures, so: Windage = Adjustable, Elevation = Fixed. This makes sense, it’s much easier to visually compensate for elevation than it is for windage.
      Meh: I just aim for slightly above center of mass and fire away. Fancy’s for target work.

  • Joe Wells June 29, 2020, 8:42 am

    How would you scale the frame size? J,K,L…, and how does it compare to the 3” Kimber? That’s the best modern evolvement of the 6 shot revolver imo.

  • George June 29, 2020, 7:51 am

    Can be shot in a pocket? Not any pockets on my clothing. Where as my pocket size self loader will fire the first round from a pocket.

  • Mark N. June 29, 2020, 2:12 am

    What does it mean when the spec says barrel length 4″ (before cutting), 3″ (after cutting). Double action trigger pull is pretty heavy at 11.5 to 13.5 lbs. Otherwise a nice looking revolver. Imported from where?

    • Willy June 29, 2020, 7:44 am

      The barrel length is cut down to meet import requirements. The EAA Windicator is the same way: The barrel is shortened, and you can see the machining marks at the muzzle.

    • KMacK June 29, 2020, 1:51 pm

      Keep in mind that a 3″ revolver barrel is JUST the barrel and not the chamber. Automatics include the chamber in barrel length, so a 3″ barrel on a revolver is equal to a 4″ automatic barrel (since the 9x19mm round is practically just about an inch long).

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