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.
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.
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.
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.
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