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(This is a reader gun review contest entry, click here for more details – enter by December 19th!)

By Paul K.

Every year a new wonder nine arrives on the scene. While the new gun in town gets all the attention, Kahr’s  “pocket nines” – the CM9, PM9, MK9 pistols – and its super short .380 ACP pistols keep on selling to discerning self-defenders. The CW9 has something the other Kahrs don’t: a 3-finger grip length. This additional grip length is welcome for accuracy and control, but it’s also the turning point between a true “pocket pistol” and one that requires a holster. It’s a feature, not a bug . .

Personally, I can barely get my cell phone out of my pocket if I’m sitting down – let alone trying to get a pistol out of my front pocket while someone is swinging a bat at me. With a holstered pistol, you have a much better chance of quickly accessing your gun.

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Before diving into the CW9, it’s worth mentioning the other models Kahr offers as a 7-rounder: the P9 and K9. Here’s a quick reference of the differences:

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 4.27.43 PM

If you look closely at the pics below, you can see the subtle differences. The CW9 and P9 share the same frame, while the P9 and K9 share the same slide and barrel. Both the P9 and K9 slides have a lot more machined milling done to them, for better aesthetics. Even the slide release on those pistols is more milled with deburred edges.

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The CW9 is the ugly sister of the bunch. The marking on the slide are stamped rather than laser engraved. It lacks the refined milling of its more expensive older sisters. According to Kahr, there is no loss in performance or reliability in the CW9, only in looks. At $300 cheaper, I decided looks weren’t that important for a small carry gun.

The fit and finish of the CW9 is . . . well you get what you pay for. If you want to go all Don Johnson, splurge for the P9 or K9. The CW9 has a few sharp edges on the mag release, easily removed with a little careful sanding. Basically, Kahr skips a few refining steps at the factory with the CW9 to pass the savings on to you. I will say that the frame seems to be identical to the one used on the P9. I found no issues with the frame whatsoever that needed to be addressed.

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The grip has excellent rag checkering. It is not too rough on the hands, but does not slip around at all. As mentioned earlier, it is long enough to fit 3 fingers — well actually 2.5 fingers — while keeping the pistol small overall. It is very thin at only .9025 inches wide. When I grip the pistol, there are only 2 points of contact between the grip and my hand: the front strap and back strap. There is nothing but open air on the side plates because this grip is so small (for me). I find it helps a lot with “pointability;” there are only two pressure points on my hand, so it is very easy for me to line up the sights left to right through touch alone.

Picture this: you are blindfolded, someone hands you a yardstick and asks you to orient the yardstick so the edge is perpendicular to your face. Easy, right? Now imagine they drew a line on the bottom handle of a baseball bat, and asked you to make that line perpendicular with your body while still blindfolded. Impossible to do without using your eyes. This is why I think there an advantage to single stack handguns.

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They allow for a thinner grip which allows the shooter to line up their sights with the use of two of the five senses, touch and sight, rather than just sight. When a pistol grip fills your hand entirely, there is no point of reference as to how the pistol is oriented through touch, like holding a bat. Having only two points of contact in the hand allows for this feedback as opposed to a double stack grip which often fills the hand.

As expected from cheaper manufacturing, the slide release has some sharp edges. Again, this is done to cut cost, but I recommend you hit that top corner with some sand paper, because that edge can leave a nice scratch when you try to use the slide release to chamber the first round.

The slide serrations are just right. They are sharp, but not so sharp as to cause any issues. This is necessary because the rest of the stainless steel slide is quit slippery and there is nowhere else to get a good grip to rack the slide.

Trigger

Striker-fired pistols are all the rage these days, so you will be happy to know that the Kahr CW9 is indeed a striker-fired pistol. It does not, however, have a typical striker-fired trigger. It has more of a double action striker-fired trigger pull. However it is a rather light double action pull.

I don’t have a gauge, so I can’t measure the trigger pull weight. I can say it has a lot less pull weight than a SIG P226, or Ruger SP101 with an 8 lbs. hammer spring. It has a very, very smooth pull that does not stack up at all to a very clean break. The one downside is the reset. You basically have to let the trigger out all the way before it will reset. I honestly prefer this smooth double action pull to the short striker fired pull on such a small pistol because it GREATLY reduces the likelihood of a NEGLIGENT DISCHARGE.

4I have a great statistic from a very reliable source (by rear end) that 99.99% of all negligent discharges happen with striker-fired pistols (unless your name is Jose Canseco or Tex Grebner). Yes, striker-fired pistols are drop safe, but when you are dealing with such a small item, it can be easy to accidently “touch” the trigger. With a striker-fired pistol, this “touch” results in a BANG.

Rest assured, this CW9 is not going to “go off” if you just so happen to touch the trigger while holstering or un-holstering, especially in a high adrenaline scenario.

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For such a small 9mm pistol, it is not that bad to shoot. It is not exactly uncomfortable, but given a box of 500 rounds, I’ll always opt to shoot a larger gun. That being said, there is nothing about firing this gun that will make you want to flinch, or not train with it, which might be the case with other smaller pocket 9s.

Recoil, I think, is the main reason to get a K9. I have heard the full stainless frame makes for a very pleasant shooting experience. With the CW9 (and P9, I imagine), the gun has some punch to it. I would not call it snappy, like a .40 cal, and with the low bore axis, it does not have a lot of muzzle flip. But because it is so light Newton is going to remind you of his laws every time you pull the trigger. The checkering does a great job of keeping the pistol secure in your hand and the extra length really helps out. This is even more pronounced when using an 8-round extended magazine.

For rapid fire, there really is not an issue having a longer reset, so long as you make sure to let your finger all the way out. I have also found that for me, I get the same accuracy from the gun when I fire rapidly with one hand as I do with two hands. I think it is because my support hand is not really touching the gun, and is only holding my other hand. This really does not help mitigate recoil at all, and the only advantage to a two-hand hold is better stability for longer shots. I also like to train on defensive pistols primarily with one hand because I have three children ages three and under. This pretty much guarantees that in a DGU, I will have one hand holding a child or pushing a stroller or shopping cart.

Accuracy

Look, I’m clearly not a top level tactical shooter. 99.9% of my trigger time is done with a mouse in the Battlefield so don’t look at this group like it is a failure on the gun’s part. To be honest, I get this kind or group with just about all my pistols at seven yards. I train for minute of paper. If I can hit an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper, quickly, at seven yards, I call it good enough. And 9mm ammo doesn’t exactly grow on trees. So here is my seven yard volley of 14 rounds.

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Sights

The factory sights are your dot-the-I variety. If you like them, great. If not, Kahr offers 3-dot night sites. I switched those out and am glad for it. The 3-dot sights allow for decent accuracy, but are not as fast as some other sight options (big dots, etc.).

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 4.42.48 PM

Reliability

Kahr recommends a break in period of 200 rounds. THIS IS CRITICAL. I had a few feeding issues during that first 200 rounds (this gun is a few years old, so I don’t remember how many). Of course, I was also using commie Tula ammo. I can say now, that it feeds Tula 100%, but you really do need to break it in. Also, I don’t think Kahr recommends using steel case but I’m a rebel, or just cheap. But as I have mentioned, I have not had an issue with Tula in a few years now, once broken in.

Magazines

This is a worth mentioning: the plastic base plates on the 7- and 8-round mags suck. The tolerance is so tight that you really have to slam the 8-rounder in there to get it to seat properly. If the slide is closed, and you try to load a full 8-round extended mag with one already in the pipe, then good luck. The mag just slides halfway out after the first shot.

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To fix the 8-rounders, just remove the base plate and sand down the top a little. This really shouldn’t be necessary from a factory magazine. For the 7-rounder, I managed to snag a free metal base plate from Kahr when my night sight order was delayed a month. I highly recommend you switch out the plastic base for metal ones. It shortens the gun and makes loading 100% reliable.


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Carry

As you would expect, this small nine is extremely easy to carry IWB. What I really like about it, though, is that it is small enough to carry OWB with a decent kydex holster. I have two home-made holsters for my Kahr. In the summer, I can pull off a large T-shirt with the Kahr OWB (6’1″ 215 lbs.). This is by far the most comfortable way to carry since there is nothing jammed in your pants. It’s also the quickest way to draw the pistol.

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Comparison

Disclaimer: THIS IS NOT AN APPLES-TO-APPLES COMPARISON. Lets face it, the CW9 is the same freaking size as a Ruger LC9, SIG P980, S&W Shield, or any other small single stack nine. This comparison is to show you just how much smaller and easier it is to carry this gun vs. guns of other sizes.

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Final thoughts

If you’re dismissing the CW9 (or any other Kahr pistol) because of the double action-like striker-fired trigger, you have ONLY READ ABOUT ONLINE, then get over yourself. I highly recommend you pick one up just to fondle the next time you see one at your local gun shop. Dry fire that little minx and see just how smooth that trigger pull is. Then — and only then — can you tell me to go suck a rock.

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Ratings (out of five stars):

Style * * * 
If you want light weight with a little more refinement, splurge for the P9. If you’re a true baller and weight doesn’t matter, the K9 is for you. Keep in mind, even a K9 will be super light and easy to carry.

Ergonomics Carry * * * * *
What can I say, it’s small, thin and light, just like my…oh wait, forget that part.

Ergonomics Firing * * * *
It’s a small gun so it’s not going to be a dream shooter, but you certainly could shoot it all day and not have any complaints the next day. Three-finger grip is a huge plus. For this size pistol, I’d give it four stars.

Reliability * * * *
200-round break in period is MANDATORY before you should carry one. Or just pick up a used one and save some bucks on the break-in period. Once broken in, I have had zero issues to feed or fire. This is even with little to no lubricant on the gun. I have complete confidence carrying it, but it MUST BE BROKEN IN!

Customize This * *
I have no idea what holsters are available, I make my own. Night sights are available, but that’s about it. Then again, what else do you need to add?

Overall * * * * 1/4
For me, this is the ultimate Mama Bear gun. Everything about it is “just right”. The biggest advantage of the CW9 is the low cost. For $380 (what I paid) this is the perfect daily companion. Great for summer carry OWB. If you see one at your LGS, take a look at it. I had skipped over Kahrs for years because of what I had READ, but once I picked it up, it was immediately clear this was a great gun.

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40 Responses to Gun Review: Kahr CW9

  1. that is one of the most important criteria when deciding on whether or not to carry a specific pistol. if all my fingers are not squarely on the grip without hanging over, i refuse to own it. inadvertently gripping the mag under duress while attempting to changing said mag could result in a catastrophe.

  2. Not bad, not bad at all. Simple, to the point, nothing that I would call “filler”, and good images. You lost me a little on the yardstick bit, but that may be due to me having large hands and never having a problem with lining up, even in the dark, blindfolded, eyes shut..

    I’ve been temped by the CW series before. And a couple of the models come in purple, which my wife loves. And the price point is excellent for the quality you get. (On the CW, the higher end models still seem high.) And I agree about the trigger. It’s long, but smooth. The reset annoys me, but I’ve never made myself get used to it.

    I also like that you reviewed a more affordable gun. I mean, it’s interesting to read about things like the Cabot Black Diamond. But I don’t need a review of it. Even if I had 6k to blow, I wouldn’t spend it on a 1911. But if I had 400 free, and wanted to try out a pocket 9, I might very well head to my LGS (T3 Outdoors in Valdosta, Ga, awesome service.) and have them order one for me.

    So, yeah. Well done on your review. I enjoyed it, Paul. Keep writing and submitting.

    • Thanks for the input. In hindsight i should have taken that yardstick thing out. Rewriting it 6 times should have been an indicator not to include it.

      More to come on more affordable firearms.

    • Agreed. This was an excellent review. Thorough, concise, quick–paced, and humorous.

      Seriously, TTAG boss people, give this guy more guns to review.

  3. we would be remiss not to mention Kahr’s broken followers (feed ramp is too long), nose dives (especially in the CW series), and premature slide lock. Sometimes, Kahr’s tight tolerances come back to bite them in the ass. I really want to love my CM9 after a year and half, but I am starting to get a bit frustrated with it.

    • A trick to fixing the feed ramp breaking the follower is to take the follower out and color in the front area with a metallic silver sharpie then put the follower back in the mag and reassemble it, then lock the slide back and put the mag in unloaded. then grab the muzzle of the barrel and (with your other thumb securing the mag release to insure the slide doesn’t slide back) aggressive push the barrel inward and wiggle it. take the mag out and look for scratching of the metallic sharpie and sand it down in that area. repeat until the barrel no longer scuffs up the metallic sharpie on the follower. don’t sand too much at a time just a little at a time. you can also just ship it back and they can trim the feed ramp but i didn’t feel like shipping the gun back.

      • Yea, I have heard about people doing that. I, personally, didn’t want to void my warranty. I sent it back and it was returned in 10 days.

  4. I like my CW9.

    Bought it new and found a serious problem with flaking nickle coating. The barrel was shedding gray flakes like you wouldn’t believe.

    I emailed Kahr the pics and a description of the problem and they sent me an RMA… But not a paid shipping label. <_< Regardless, it made it from SC to MA and back in about two weeks and was better than new.

    Since then, I've sent several hundred rounds of American brass and aluminum FMJ through it without any major malfunctions of any kind.

    One thing to watch out for though is that the slide release will slip loose and the gun will auto-chamber a round if you slap the mag in too hard.

    • >One thing to watch out for though is that the slide release will slip loose and the gun will auto-chamber a round if you slap the mag in too hard.

      That’s not a problem that’s a feature.

      • One of my buddies suggested it was a feature as well.

        I’d agree about it being a feature if it did it every time, but it doesn’t. Inconsistency =/= feature but that doesn’t keep me from liking my gat. :^D

        I just don’t include the automatic slide release it has part of my normal PSD training.

    • “One thing to watch out for though is that the slide release will slip loose and the gun will auto-chamber a round if you slap the mag in too hard.”

      Lots of semi auto can do this, it’s not really unusual. It seem to happen more often the smaller the gun. If you aren’t sure a round stripped off, just rack the slide again.

  5. I’ve owned both a PM9 and a P9. Like the author, I prefer the P9 (same size as the CW reviewed here)

    I got my first P9 back in the 90s when it first came out. I loved the gun and carried it daily in an IWB holster.

    Then in roughly 2002 the PM9 came out and I immediately purchased one of them, figuring that it could also be pocket carried. Unfortunately I sold my P9 shortly after getting the little PM9.

    What I found was that the PM9 was just a bit too large for me to comfortably carry in my jeans pockets, and just a bit too heavy for me to comfortably carry in my dress pants. I ended up carrying it IWB or OWB as conditions allowed and stuck with a Seecamp and then a Ruger LCP for pocket carry.

    After a couple of years, I realized that when carrying the PM9 in a holster, I had gained nothing over the P9 and lost one extra round and the ability to hold the grip with my entire hand. So a couple of years ago I sold the PM and purchased a nice new P9 with a black slide. I also replaced the LCP with the much nicer shooting Kahr P380.

    So for now, my P9 rides with me whenever I’m carrying under an untucked shirt and I need to remain well concealed. The P380 goes with me when I wear a tucked shirt. And the Glock 19 in a retention OWB goes with me when I’m either wearing a jacket or don’t really care if I print.

    For me, the P9 is a nearly perfect carry gun. And it doesn’t hurt that it also looks great.

    Don

    • I have a similar set up carrying a P9 IWB or a CW380 (P380’s less refined brother) in my pocket depending on the situation. The reviewer was pretty spot on talking about the trigger, how it shoots, and the magazine.

      Overall, its a good gun, and while it has some recoil, it is less than a full size 40 cal I own. My biggest grip is the take down. If you have hand strength issues, the tight spring is a bear to wrestle with, especially the first few times you do it.

  6. Trust me, a better shooter can produce a MUCH better group with this little shooter. Not knocking the reviewer, that is indeed a lethal group, just saying this is a pretty accurate little pistol.

    In fact, the accuracy and shoot-ability of this diminutive handgun were what impressed me the most. Especially at the price point and form factor. I’m a big guy with small hands, found the grip easy and comfortable. Very controllable. I had a big ol’ grin on my face after my first range trip with it. Way exceeded my expectations.

    Did spend 15 minutes with the Dremel and some polishing compound on the slide, rails, and feed ramp to speed the “break in” period. No reliability problems since.

    As an Instructor I have lots of people ask for recommendations for carry pistols. This little guy is tied with the M & P Shield for number 1 on my list.

  7. Stick with the all-steel Kahrs… I have a K9 and two K40s that I’ve shot thousands of rounds through without a FTF even during the prescribed break in period. I also have a P40 that still has nagging stovepipe hiccups well after the break in period… I have also found that the magazine release on the P Series can be inadertantly pressed a lot more easilly than the K Series.

  8. I bought mine about a year ago. My break-in, shot in a single session, was flawless. I have had one nose dive in 600 rounds or so. My mags have the black base plate, which assures a three finger grip, and I have had no issues locking them in.
    Since I don’t work with my hands, I found the grip checkering sharp and uncomfortable, an issue I remedied with a Hogue HandAll Jr. The HandAll not only has a smooth (but grippy) rubber surface, it has slight palm swells that fill in the hand very nicely, and it also provides a single finger groove for the index finger. The swells make the width at mid-grip about 1 1/8 inches.
    The gun is just small enough to be pocketable with deep pockets, even with the rather thick Remora I picked up while waiting for my OWB to be built, and is thin enough to conceal easily with an OWB holster. I have yet to find a comfortable IWB, but I have to assume this little gun will just disappear. At 15.9 oz (unloaded) weight is not an issue at all.
    I find the shooting experience to be pleasant, with a mild recoil pulse (compared to a .45), and the gun returns “combat accuracy” at 15 yards for an average shooter like me. My daughter thought it was a bit snappy compared to a Springfield XD9 with a 4″ barrel, an opinion initially seconded by my son until he’d shot it a bit more. The only issue I have is the length of the trigger pull. The sear does not release until the trigger is almost all the way to the rear, such that my left hand interfered with what my trigger finger was doing until I readjusted my grip.

  9. I own a Kahr CW-9 and carry it frequently. However, I have two additional cautions for prospective buyers.

    One, carrying a spare magazine for a Kahr is pretty much a waste of time. For some reason, the cartridges “leak” from the magazine if it is not in the gun. Whether in a pocket or in a magazine carrier, by the end of the day a seven round magazine will only have four or five left in it, if that.

    Second, the recoil spring is unbearable. When I teach people to shoot, they almost never have a problem locking the slide back on my Glock 19, but they are almost never able to lock the slide back on my Kahr, at least not on the first try.

    • Excellent point about the leaky mags. I found the same issue and have stopped carrying a spare mag as a result.
      I did make a kydex mag holder similar to the holster which holds two mags. I never had mags leak from the mag holsters but grew tired of caring the mags OWB with the gun IWB

    • forgot to mention that in my comment above. mine doesn’t “leak” that bad, but yea, I have to check it every couple of days to make sure the rounds are secure in my mag and not flopping around in my mag holder.

    • Try carrying your spare mag in a Knife case, been carrying mine that way for a bout 2 years now, never had any rds. “leak”.

    • Try carrying your spare mag. in a knife sheath with a flap over it. that’s the way I carry my spare 8 rd. mag., and have had no rds. come out. Even though it is carried with the rds. down and oriented as it would go in the gun.

  10. Nice review. Kahr cm9 for next to nothing online. Being tiny doesn’t deter me at all as I’m pretty sure these are all belly guns. Has anyone had any experience with the Kahr CM 45? Same size as the tiny Springfield 45 at half (or less) of the cost…

  11. Great review! The CW9 has been my EDC gun for several years now. I carry it in a DeSantis SuperFly pocket holster (I typically wear pants with wide-mouthed pockets) with the stock 7-round mag and an extra 8-round mag in my other pocket (and I’ve never had any rounds fall out of the extra mag as you often hear about). Overall, I love the gun. Yes, the re-set is slightly long (but nowhere near as long as a Kel-Tec PF-9); however, even when firing rapid strings, I’ve never once short-stroked it. The best thing about it is how well it fits my fairly-small hands – I think this fact alone contributes to me being able to more consistently practice good trigger control with it.

  12. My EDC is a Kahr CW40 (same gun, chambered in .40 S&W). I can conceal it in just about anything (which is a big plus in a state where my attire consists of shorts and t-shirt 85% of the time I leave the house). It is dead-nuts reliable (after a break-in period). It shoots very accurately. I basically have no complaints. I had a few instances of the slide locking itself back midway through a mag in the first few hundred rounds I put through it, but after that it has smoothed out and had zero malfunctions. It feeds any ammo I’ve tried to put through it. Its light enough that after a minute or two i dont even notice its there, but still does a good job of handling recoil (even for a lightweight polymer gun chambered for “snappy” .40… its pretty tame). I love it. Carry it in a High Noon Split Decision holster.

  13. I’ve owned and carried one of the PM9’s since shortly after they came out.
    It has the same machining shortcomings you attributed to the CM9’s “cost cutting”.
    The slide lock is far too sharp and square, the ejection port is unacceptably sharp (it will tear holsters and fingers without a care) and after a few months of warm weather IWB carry the barrel, trigger spring and the mag catch (also too sharp around the edges) began to rust, so much so the mag catch wouldn’t reset after dropping a mag.

    I took the edges off the ejection port and rounded the slide lock and mag catch, then sent the whole deal off to Robar and had it all NP3 coated. I would still prefer a Glock like trigger, because I’m not personally incompetent with firearms but I understand product liability laws so I will deal. But as it stands, I would not recommend the little Kahrs to carry unless you’re willing sink some time and money into making them they way they SHOULD be from the factory.

    And don’t think the PM series are even a little bit better than the cheap ones. When I discovered the rust pitting on my barrel, I bought another PM9 slide and barrel assembly off Gunbroker. Good thing I did, because each barrel is fitted individualy to its slide. Yep, all this talk about Kahr holding tight tolerances is BS. They can’t hold their parts to the same specs that Glock does so you can’t use the barrel from one slide in another.

  14. Very nice review Paul. I’m loving my FNS9 so I’m all set I 9 mm;however, I also really like my CW45. So much that I’m strongly considering a CW380 to replace or supplement my LCP. I expect a break-in for every EDC before I’ll trust it, so for the big $ savings, I’m a happy CW customer. Keep on writing.

  15. I bought a CW9 for my girlfriend as her first piece. She loves it; especially the trigger. Thing is like butter. It’s a lot more pleasant to shoot than that POS S&W Shield, that’s for sure. Plus it was ~$200 cheaper.

  16. Rented a Kahr at the pistol range with my dad. It shoots ok, but the 2.0 finger polymer grip on that one was very hard to control and shoot accurately. The trigger was smooth and lighter than most double actions (it’s not a real double action but rather a long pull that releases the striker).

    Funny enough, the magazine exploded halfway through shooting it and we had to fish a part out from the brass. It was an over abused, under repaired rental gun so I wouldn’t be too concerned about that happening with a new or lightly used one.

  17. The CW9 is my favorite carry gun (and my wife’s).

    The only thing that bothered me was that slide release. It hit me right in the tip of the thumb on each round. I rounded the back of it and it’s perfect now.

  18. I carried a CW9 for awhile, 6 months to a year. Used it to replace my Sp-101. Loved the trigger, nice smooth faux-DA trigger, and fairly comfortable to shoot. The day I bought it I put 200 rounds through for the “break in” and didn’t encounter any issues (I think it was sellier & bellot 115 gr mostly). The only failure I ever got was with Speer GD 147 gr. 147 grain 9mm has given me problems in a couple other (non Kahr) guns so I don’t use it anymore but everything else I ran through it was fine. Gun carried great, fell asleep with it a couple times.

    I know all the rage right now is the Shield, XDS, and LC9s but the Kahr is still worth checking out. It really comes down to how you like the trigger.

    Edit: Sweet knife btw. Benchmade 943? Was the camo pattern a limited offering from the factory or some sort of aftermarket coating?

  19. I found a used one at a gun show for $315, so I couldn’t pass it up. Practical accuracy is good, though, initially, it shot way left. I had to knock the rear sight off center at least a millimeter. The gun was completely reliable, except with steel cased ammo. The firing pin doesn’t protrude past the breach face far enough to ignited those primers. The trigger is very good, and I made it a little lighter by bending its return spring. I have long fingers, so I made the grip deeper with a Hogue rubber grip sleeve. Much more comfortable, with good control. I ground off the pinky extension on the magazine base plate to get marginally less printing. I wish it had come with the steel base plate from the six rounder. I carry it in a modified DeSantis SofTuck holster; cheap and effective. Do yourselves a favor: glue a piece of neoprene on the side that goes toward your skin, and cut it so that it covers the whole area of holster, slide, and grip.

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