I’ve never been a big fan of polymer frame guns. They’re light, some even toy-like. For me, they don’t have the solid grip that I get from metal frames, and they just don’t look as bad-ass as good old fashioned solid steel firepower in the hand. But looks don’t count for everything – especially when considering a pistol that’s meant to be concealed. But my bias for heavy handguns aside, there is definitely something to be said for the plastic fantastics. . .
The Kahr CM9 is the more average-looking (and cheaper) version of its popular, sexier cousin, the PM9. Actually, Kahr’s taken the slightly larger (and just as plane-Jane) CW9 and chopped the barrel and grip to make a truly tiny niney. The difference between the PM and CW guns: they’ve replaced the match grade barrel with regular rifling (1-10 right hand twist), toned down the fancy stuff (squared lines and simple engraving as opposed to the PM9’s roll marking), and ship them with a single six-round magazine.
For a self-defense pistol I want at least one spare mag, but with the extra $200 and change rattling around in my pocket (compared to the price of a PM9), perhaps dropping about $30 for a spare isn’t a real deal-breaker. Although, I’m not sold on the one 6-rounder they give you to begin with. I noticed that it didn’t sit completely flush with the grip, so I gave it a good tap (note: seating the mag aggressively also racks the slide) just to make sure. To my surprise it completely disassembled, spilling the rounds and components to the floor. Awesome.
Being from Wisconsin, I’m paying close attention to what the handgun market has to offer in the way of CCW pistols, and the CM9 fills that bill. I’m an average sized college-aged female, so I like to wear slimmer-fitting clothing. That gives handguns with less displacement more appeal for me. The slim 14oz. Kahr, at only .90” wide, with its 3” barrel hides neatly, even in my skinny jeans.
Functionally, I consider that an upgrade from my SIG SAUER P238 – nearly the same size, the same round capacity, but packing lighter-punching .380 ACP cartridges. Not to mention the internal safeties and striker firing mechanism have their appeal when considering a conceal carry pistol. However, as with any single stack sub-compact 9mm, you sacrifice capacity compared to say, a double stacker like the Glock 26 (10+1) or the sub-compact Springfield XD (also 10+1)… just something to consider.
I expected such a light pistol to snap at the range and it definitely does, but it’s nothing that a firm grip can’t deal with. The only problem is that firm grip must be accomplished with only two fingers. Not a problem if you have smaller hands like me, but if you’re a big guy with meat hooks on the ends of your arms, you may want to opt for an extended magazine.
As a comparison, Beretta recently released a new pistol that fills the same niche as the CM9 – the Nano. It has the same capacity and size as the CM9, but the Nano has a steel chassis in the grip frame that brings its weight to just under 17.7 oz. compared to the Kahr’s more svelte 14oz. While 3.7 oz. doesn’t sound like much, it makes a noticeable difference in ease of carry (better) and how high that muzzle pops (worse) after giving each round its send-off, making the Kahr less pleasant to shoot.
In short it has more muzzle flip. For me that flip, in combination with the Kahr’s long (albeit, smooth) trigger pull, and the lack of a short reset, means potentially less accurate follow-up shots – not something I relish when I only have seven rounds to stop a baddie. So with that bad guy stopping power in mind, I tried out the CM9 with a couple of self-defense types of ammo in addition to my usual (cheap) munitions:
PMC – 115 grain FMJ, 1150 fps
Remington UMC – 115 grain FMJ, 1145 fps
Hornady Zombie Max – 115 grain FTX, 1135 fps (ya know, in case you needed a backup gun against the undead hordes)
Pow’R Ball – 100 grain +P JHP, 1475 fps
Kahr says their guns require a 200-round break-in period, and they do. After 200 rounds of cheap-o PMC (yep, I’m broke-ass), I experienced one stovepipe, and one instance of the slide failing to lock back on an empty chamber. In 200 rounds of Remington UMC, once again, the slide failed to lock back once. For the Hornady, I put 50 rounds through, and experienced another slide lock-back failure. But for the Pow’RBall? No issue in 40 rounds, with the exception of the red imprint my palm was sporting, courtesy of the Kahr’s aggressive backstrap checkering (and damn, did that thing get snappy after a while). While the slide not locking back didn’t impair my ability to shoot, I did find it a little unsettling.
If you’re looking for a light little pocket rocket that won’t break the bank and the 9mm cartridge works for you, the CM9 will suit you just fine. The dot and post sights are great for quick target acquisition, it has crisp slide serrations, and it isn’t so small that my groupings were wild (and I am far from a pro shooter). But the long trigger, snappy muzzle flip, lone magazine in the box, plastic grip, and the over-aggressive checkering leave something to be desired. Call me superficial, but I still don’t dig how this pistol bears more than a passing resemblance to my dorm room refrigerator.
Caliber: 9mm Parabellum (Luger)
Overall Length: 5.42”
Barrel Length: 3.0” conventional rifling (1-10 right hand twist)
Weight (unloaded): 14 oz., magazine: 1.9 oz.
Sights: Drift, adjustable, dot and peg
Slide: matte stainless steel
Frame: black polymer w/ front and rear strap checkering
MSRP: $517 (about $380 street)
RATINGS (out of five stars):
Style * * *
Plain Jane with a polymer frame. Stainless steel is too eye-catching for my concealed carry comfort, so I guess matte has its place. . . but that doesn’t make it anything to look at.
Ergonomics (carry) * * * * *
Striker-fired, light weight and not a lot of real estate. Pretty hard to beat.
Ergonomics (firing) * * *
It’s a light pistol with only 3” of barrel to send that bullet off on its journey, so it has some snap to it. The two finger grip doesn’t help on that front. This isn’t a range gun.
Reliability * * *
There was one stovepipe during the break-in period (granted, that was likely the cheap ammo), but then there’s that troublesome slide lockback issue to think about.
Customize This * * *
Trijicon night sights and Crimson Trace LaserGrips are options. For such a small pistol, what else do you really need?
Overall Rating * * * *
It’s light, easily concealable and seems to go bang when you want it to. And it won’t break the bank. So what if it won’t win any beauty contests? In all, not bad at all for a budget model mouse gun.