Boberg XR9-5 Pistol

Rewriting Semi-Auto Design.

Before we get into the beautiful weirdness of the Boberg XR9-S, let’s acknowledge its singular advantage: barrel length. In all of the other sub-compact 9mm guns, you have only a little over 2″ of actual barrel ahead of the chamber. Thus, in most small autos, the 9mm, even with hot Plus-P loads, does not get up to full velocity.

Is there a way to get around this? Yes, and Arne Boberg has done it. He extended the barrel back over the magazine well, giving it an overall length of 3.35″, with the rifled portion measuring about 2.70″.

With some loads, this gets the muzzle velocity up to around 1,400 fps. Ah, but now you have the rear part of the barrel over the magazine well. What to do? Boberg solved it neatly, with a tong lever in the slide, and a platform in the frame to lift the cartridge up to feed.

A similar system was tried only once before. Way back in 1895, in England, Hugh W. Gabbett-Fairfax designed a very large pistol he named the “Mars” and it was patented in 1898. Initially chambered for a high-powered, bottlenecked .360 round, it also had a “back-feeding” magazine. Unfortunately, he also used a small rotating internal bolt exposing the entire cartridge at the rear during recoil. And, there were other problems. By around 1905, the “Mars” was history.

The Boberg XR9-S has no slide stop, merely a takedown lever on
the left side. It can be adjusted to hold the slide back if needed.

Clean lines and great ergonomics
are a definitive part of the Boberg.

Arne’s Idea

What Gabbett-Fairfax needed back then was Arne Boberg to show him how to do it right. The Boberg system is entirely internal, is strongly made and works perfectly. On that last note, I should comment on some Internet chatter about the XR9-S, from a copy sent to me by my old friend Phil Boleng (otherwise, I wouldn’t have known about it, as this dinosaur has no computer). It seems a few users of the pistol complained pulling the slide not quite all the way back caused a jam. Well, duh. This is true of any auto pistol (or slide-action shotgun!).

For the locking system of the XR9-S, Boberg wisely chose a turn-barrel arrangement. Back around 1905, Elbert Searle in America and Karel Krnka in Austria discovered this system had several advantages. One of them is it will automatically adjust its rotation/opening speed to the power of the cartridge used. Another is the straight back-and-forward movement of the barrel tends to give flawless feeding.

When the XR9-S is fired, and the slide moves rearward, the “tongs” on the slide-mounted lever pull the cartridge out of the magazine toward the rear, onto a frame-mounted platform. At full rear travel, the slide strikes a lug on the platform, lifting the cartridge into alignment for feeding into the chamber.

This may sound complicated, but it’s not. An odd feature of the magazine is there is no follower at the top. The end of the magazine spring is angled downward, and the cartridges rest directly on the spring. In all of my test-firing, this caused no problems. Still, for those who like to see a follower at the top, the company offers one you can put there for $3.95 plus postage.

The underside of the XR9-S slide shows the “tongs” that pull
the cartridge from the magazine. It works flawlessly!


The external controls of the XR9-S are minimal. The push-button magazine release is well shielded against any inadvertent depression. The low-profile takedown latch can be turned to mid-position to hold the slide open, but there is no hold-open after the last round. And also, I’m glad to say, no annoying magazine disconnect safety.

And no equally annoying ridges on the smooth-faced trigger. The double-action-only trigger pull is flawless, and it’s continuous, not a reset-type. Not noticeable in a quick pull, the external hammer has a very slight hesitation-point as it nears full-cook position, allowing you to use the good sights. These have three white dots, the one on the front a little larger. Both are dovetail-mounted, with lateral adjustment after loosening Allen screws.

The XR9-S sits well in the hand, with a deep incurve at upper rear and room for two average fingers on the frontstrap of the frame. There is no dumb “hook” on the front of the nicely rounded triggerguard. Wide-spaced serrations give a good grip for slide retraction. The firing pin has an automatic block that won’t release until the trigger is pressed. This and the DAO trigger are the safety systems.

The Boberg fits this feminine hand comfortably, giving perspective.


The fit and finish of my test gun were superb, and the construction was of excellent materials. The grip-frame is 7075-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum, and the grip panels are Zytel polymer. The slide and other parts are high-strength stainless steel. The small diameter but powerful recoil spring is mounted in the slide, just southeast (front view) of the barrel, and it has a full-length steel guide.

At the Big Tree range, I tried the XR9-S mostly with two loads: The 115-gr. FMJ “Performance Match” load from CorBon and a Black Hills load. Both worked perfectly in the Boberg. Shooting was at 7 yards, standing, 2-hand hold. Five-shot groups were well centered in the 8″ black of the Champion Visi-Shot targets, and measurement was 3.25″ to 3.5″ for my rather casual efforts at accuracy! I’m sure this gun will shoot just fine at longer ranges, but I was unable to do so at the time of the shoot.

Take down is simple and yields these bits.

The “backwards” loading takes getting used to, but it worked great in our testing.

Carefully Made

At the Boberg plant in Minnesota, production is sort of Seecamp-ish, with each pistol lovingly and individually made, and it shows. By the time you’re reading this, they will also be offering the XR9-L, with a 4.2″ barrel. Other finishes are also offered, at slightly higher prices. A few years back, our Esteemed Editor even had some input. The designer was considering offering it to one of the major manufacturers. At the SHOT Show, Roy said: “Why don’t you make it yourself, Arne?” I’m glad he did.
By J.B. Wood
For more info:, (651) 209-4812

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One thought on “Boberg XR9-5 Pistol

  1. Obersaber

    Boberg will release a XR45-S in February 2014 with a 3.75″ barrel with progressive “gain twist” rifling for greater velocity and reduced recoil rated for +P ammo. A 3.75″ Boberg progressive twist barrel got 1300fps with Underwood 185grHP 45 Super ammo.
    The gun will be only 5.75″ OAL and weigh in at 20.5 oz.
    Smaller, lighter, less recoil and more accurate than other 45acp+P pocket pistols on the market. Life is good!

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