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Rock Island's Affordable 6-Shot 9mm DA/SA AL9.0 Revolver

Rock Island Armory's AL9.0 double-action, single-action 9mm revolver is economical, fun and shoots great!

Rock Island's Affordable 6-Shot 9mm DA/SA AL9.0 Revolver

Compact revolvers are a lot of fun, especially when champered in economical 9mm ammo. 

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The 9mm is the most popular handgun cartridge in the world. This means it’s likely to be available when less popular cartridges are MIA on store shelves. The 9mm also tends to be less expensive than other defensive handgun calibers, and given its popularity, there’s a good chance a gun owner already has a 9mm-chambered pistol. Once almost exclusively associated with semiautomatic pistols, 9mm cartridges are now appearing in revolver cylinders. A few innovative firearms companies like Rock Island Armory are offering 9mm-chambered wheelguns in sizes ranging from snub-nosed to full-sized. Rock Island’s version is the medium-framed, 3-inch barreled AL9.0, a six-gun that delivers 9mm performance with a reasonable price tag.

Why a 9mm Revolver?

Rock Island Armory’s steel 9mm revolver has rubber grips and a blued finish to ensure longevity through the years.

Most modern revolvers intended for self-defense are chambered in .38 Special or .357 Magnum. The latter is far superior ballistically to the former, but its recoil is also considerably harder to manage. Revolvers chambered for .357 Magnum can shoot .38 Special cartridges, but the reverse is not true. A popular practice is to train with .38 Special but carry .357 Magnum for self-defense. While .38 Special certainly makes for a more comfortable range session, it’s important to train with the stouter recoiling .357 Magnum cartridge if that’s what you’ll be shooting when your life or that of a loved one is in jeopardy. So, where does the 9mm fit in with these classic revolver chamberings?

The 9mm is available in a much larger variety of loads than .38 Special and .357 Magnum, which allows you to select the cartridge design that you prefer or one to meet a specific need. From a 3-inch barrel, like the AL9.0, the 9mm should outperform the .38 Special ballistically. Although the 9mm is a bit anemic compared to the .357 Magnum, it strikes a chord as a round you can train with and carry. The availability, affordability, and effectiveness of the 9mm cartridge makes it appealing to not only pistol owners but also to those who prefer revolvers. Despite their relative lack of capacity and stiff trigger pull, revolvers are easy to understand and operate. Their manual of arms is far simpler than their semiautomatic pistol counterparts.  

A flat, wide hammer spur provides ample gripping surface when manipulating the hammer. The bright, orange front sight is easy to pick up.

To fire a revolver, load the cylinder, close the cylinder, and press the trigger until it’s empty. Unload and repeat. The revolver epitomizes the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) principle. When lives are on the line, simple is good. Even to the neophyte, revolvers have a distinctly different feel than pistols. Mid-sized revolvers like the AL9.0 fill most hands completely, especially with a rubber grip and finger grooves. The AL9.0 and similar all-steel revolvers have some weight to them, which can help mitigate recoil — especially compared to a similarly-sized, polymer-framed pistol. There’s just something reassuring about the feel of a steel revolver in the hand. Since semiautomatic pistols are fed from magazines contained within their grip, there is less flexibility in the size and shape as compared to a revolver. Revolver grips are more easily modified to the shooter’s preference, whether that means a larger grip for better control or a smaller grip for stealthier carry.

Rock Island AL9.0 Features

The AL9.0 holds six rounds of 9mm.

Revolvers that use rimmed cartridges are often loaded with a speed loader (full cylinder reload) or speed strip (partial cylinder reload). Since it fires the rimless 9mm case, the AL9.0 is loaded using moon clips. The moon clips hold 6 rounds and enable you to load and unload the entire cylinder at once. Fishing casings out of the cylinder with your fingernails sucks, and it would suck even more if your life depended on a reload. If you’re going to use a 9mm-chambered revolver for self-defense, moon clips are a must-have accessory. Unlike cartridges designed for revolvers, the 9mm is rimless, so the AL9.0’s cylinder chambers are tapered to contain it. You can fire the AL9.0 without a moon clip, but the spent casings will not eject normally because when the ejector rod is struck, the extractor star has nothing to grab onto. The moon clip stays in the chamber during firing and gives the extractor something to grab, enabling the moon clip and spent casings to be extracted and ejected from the cylinder by way of the ejector rod.

Removing spent casings from moon clips can be cumbersome, especially when firing hundreds of rounds. Fortunately, my friend and colleague Alfredo Rico loaned me his homemade moon clip unloading tool that he fashioned from a .50 BMG casing. If you’re not as crafty, you can purchase a similar tool online for a few bucks. If you plan to shoot the AL9.0 much, it would be money well spent. Loading is one thing, but the way a gun shoots is far more important. From the moment I picked up the Czech Republic-made AL9.0 revolver, I knew it wasn’t a novelty. The more I worked with it, the more convinced I became that this economically-priced revolver was designed to be shot, not coddled. The AL9.0 fills the hand nicely and stays put, thanks to the pebble textured rubber grip. Finger grooves tend to be a controversial feature, but the AL9.0’s grooves were situated so that my fingers found them naturally, facilitating a secure grip. Of course, the rubber grip also helped dampen felt recoil.

The rear sight is adjustable.

The 3-inch barrel strikes a sensible balance between a snub-nosed and full-sized revolver. The fully-shrouded barrel adds weight where you want it — up front, to help control muzzle rise. Weighing 2 pounds, the AL9.0 is robust without being a boat anchor. At just 1.5-inches wide, the AL9.0 would make a solid choice for concealed carry when paired with a sturdy belt and substantial cover garment. The AL9.0 is also well-suited for home defense, where the simplicity and reliability of a revolver compliment the plentiful, affordable, and effective 9mm chambering. Whether for concealed carry, home defense, or even target shooting, prominent sights are a must. The AL9.0 checks this box with a fixed ramped front and fully adjustable rear. The front sight features serrations that lead your eye to a prominent orange insert. The rear sight features a serrated base and a square notch. The barrel also has serrations to help mitigate glare.

The hammer spur is flat and wide, with serrations for a solid purchase when cocking or de-cocking. The cylinder release is large, serrated, and easily manipulated forward to unlock the cylinder. The ejector rod is also easy to use, rounding out the simple, readily accessible controls. Rock Island Armory lists the trigger pull at 4 to 6.5 pounds in single action (SA) and 11.5 to 13 pounds in double action (DA). My Lyman Electronic Trigger Pull gauge told a different story, with an average SA pull of 2.3 pounds and a DA pull of 10.5 pounds. In SA, the trigger pull was short and light with a crisp break. The DA pull was manageable and appropriate for a revolver intended for self-defense. By removing the grip on the AL9.0, you can adjust the trigger spring to affect trigger pull. Instructions for this are provided in the manual if you are so inclined.

Range Time with the AL9.0 Revovler

Moon clips are needed for the rimless 9mm case. Plus, they speed up the reloading process, allowing the shooter to load the entire cylinder at once.

I obtained accuracy results from a bag rest at 15 yards. A target from Rock Island Armory tucked neatly in the AL9.0’s plastic case showed a five-shot group measuring 2.3 inches shot from 15 meters. I shot several five-shot groups from 15 yards using three different loads. My results were consistent with the target provided by Rock Island Armory. But benchrest accuracy doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story. In the real world, you’re likely to be firing when taken by surprise. Using the double action pull produced combat-effective groups at 15 yards off-hand. The AL9.0 is a medium-sized DA/SA revolver with good sights and a nice trigger. With an MSRP of $699, the AL9.0 won’t break the bank. Its 9mm chambering makes ammunition easier and less expensive to acquire than traditional revolver loads. If you already own a 9mm pistol or PCC, you’ll appreciate the convenience of having a revolver that fires the same ammunition. If you’re looking for an economically priced 9mm revolver that delivers on performance, the AL9.0 may be just right for the job. Its blued finish is reminiscent of the blue-collar worker who earns every ounce of his pay. The Rock Island Armory AL9.0 is a 9mm six-gun that delivers.


Rock Island Armory AL9.0 Revovler Specs

  • Type: DA/SA Revolver
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 6 rds. 
  • Barrel: 3 in. 
  • Overall Length: 6.75 in. 
  • Weight: 2 lbs. 
  • Grip: Rubber
  • Frame: Steel, blued finish
  • Sights: Blade orange front, adjustable rear
  • MSRP: $699
  • Manufacturer: Armscor

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