Gun Review: Kahr S9 9mm Pistol

I’ve never carried a single stack pistol. So when RF handed me a single-stack Kahr S9 in 9mm to review, I was on unfamiliar territory. While I appreciate the extra-concealability of a single stack handgun, is it worth sacrificing capacity for stealth and comfort?

The Kahr S9 combines a matte stainless steel slide with a black polymer frame. With its undersnout picatinny rail and front and rear slide serrations, the look is half-tactical, half Bond, James Bond. But with the serial number bolted onto the grip, half-assed.

Both seven round magazines, the trigger and slide stop are machined from stainless steel to match the slide. The traditional white three-dot sights are a blend of steel (dovetailed in the rear) and plastic (pinned in front).

The Kahr S9 tips the scales at 17 ounces unloaded and the diminutive handgun stretches just under six inches. Taken as a whole, the Worcester wonder is about 3/4 the size and weight of a fully-loaded GLOCK 19.

Where the Kahr excels: its slim grip. The handle’s square stippling pattern — front and back — is aggressive enough to keep the gun in place while firing, but not so sharp as to cause concealed carry discomfort.

The Kahr’s S9’s trigger guard is undercut; there’s a curve near the front that enables a higher support hand grip. The oversized slide stop is heavily textured for easy release (assuming you don’t slingshot the slide). It also doubles as a take down pin.

To disassemble the Kahr S9, clear the firearm, pinch the slide slightly back, push out the take down pin, pull the trigger and pull the slide right off. Push out the X-large guide rod and solid recoil spring and remove the barrel.

Pop it all back together, function check the gun, load it up and press the double-action trigger. And keep pressing. And keep pressing. At some point, the trigger will break and send lead will downrange.

The trigger feels like a tuned revolver’s. While it’s as long as War & Peace, the press is manageable and smooth at seven pounds. The recoil is sharp but not painful firing all the ammo I fed it: Cap Arms 115 gr. FMJ RN, Sellier & Bellot 115 gr. FMJ and Remington 115 gr. JHP High Terminal Performance.

The groupings were what I’d call average at various distances: three, five, seven, 15 and 25 yards. At combat distance, the benchmark for a concealed carry pistol such as it was minute-of-bad-guy all day.

My main issue with the pistol was the magazine release. The base of my thumb on my support hand pressed the magazine release during firing, releasing the magazine. Sometimes it happened after one round, sometimes two, but all the damn time.

Jeremy experienced the same problem, although less frequently (sightly less than once per magazine, even though he was conscious of the problem). The mag release is just too flimsy and the springs too soft.

If I crossed my thumbs as I would for a revolver, as above, I could fire a full magazine without malfunction. And this was the only issue bedeviling the gun through 400 rounds.

Overall, the Kahr S9 is sleek-looking, easy to conceal and shoots accurately enough for the job at hand. However, the magazine issue is unacceptable. Until it’s fixed, the single stack Kahr S9 doesn’t justify switching from a reliable double stack.

SPECIFICATIONS: Kahr S9 CW DAO pistol

Caliber: 9mm
Capacity: 7+1
Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
Barrel: 3.6″, conventional rifling; 1-10 right-hand twist
Length O/A: 5.9 inches
Height: 4.5 inches
Slide Width: .90 inches
Weight: Pistol 15.8 ounces, Magazine 1.9 ounces
Grips: Textured polymer with ID tag
Sights: Drift adjustable white Two-dot rear sight, pinned in polymer front sight
Finish: Black polymer frame with accessory rail, matte stainless steel slide with front serrations
Magazines: 2 7-round, stainless
MSRP: $477

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Style * * * * *
The matte stainless steel makes the pistol pop. The front serrations and the rail add to the tactical look. A handsome little devil that wouldn’t seem out-of-place in the hands of Bond, James Bond.

Reliability *
It runs flawlessly — except for the fact that the magazine drops out.

Ergonomics * * * * 
Thanks to the right-sized handle (for me) and the grip stippling, the gun sits secure in the hands. The curved trigger guard is a welcome feature.

Accuracy * * *
The S9’s as accurate as you’d expect from a small, double-action only 9mm pistol. But no more.

Customize This * * *
Snout-mounted Picantinny rail welcomes lights, lasers, bayonets, etc. Fiber optic and night sights available.

Overall * *
The double-action trigger is smooth and the ergonomics work for hands both large and small. If the mags stayed put, we’d have a winner. They don’t, so we don’t.

comments

  1. avatar JDC says:

    I think this is a matter of how YOU hold the pistol. I have three Kahrs with the same magazine release set up and never had this happen. If anything, I have to deliberately and forcefully press it to get the magazine released. Of course, it could just be your specific pistol.

    1. avatar Mystickal says:

      I agree. Not sure if the picture holding the pistol is how you normally hold the pistol, or if it is the “crossed my thumbs as I would for a revolver”, but your thumbs look way too low for a proper grip.

      1. avatar WhiteDevil says:

        Yeah this is supposed to be a blog with excellent info and they can’t even hold a pistol right? I mean, really? Who the hell holds a pistol like that?

      2. avatar Robert Farago says:

        Guys, that IS HIS REVOLVER GRIP.

        1. avatar Texheim says:

          He knows that you grip revolvers and semis differently, right?

        2. avatar WhiteDevil says:

          Understood. But, why is he complaining about a mag issue that only occurs when he holds a semi the way he never should or does?

        3. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

          I… what? He’s clearly demonstrating how he has to hold it to _avoid_ the problem. If he holds it like an auto the problem does happen.

        4. avatar TheStoic says:

          You say “understood” but I don’t think you do. This is the grip he switched to because the mag kept dropping. It was not his original grip. The mag issue DID NOT occur when he switched to a revolver grip.

          **Edit – Eric beat me to it**

        5. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          Sheesh. I guess y’all just came here for the pictures haha

          The mag was popping out while I shot the thing, too, and I swear the base of my support hand thumb wasn’t on that weak-sprung mag release. Maybe a part of my hand was brushing against it under recoil or something, or maybe it was depressing on its own under recoil. Not sure, but I am sure it’s an issue.

        6. avatar WhiteDevil says:

          Ahhhh. I’m a dumbass.

      3. avatar Ing says:

        He resorted to the thumbs-crossed revolver grip on purpose, to avoid the mag-release problem.

        As it says in the review: “If I crossed my thumbs as I would for a revolver, as above, I could fire a full magazine without malfunction.”

        edit: everybody beat me to it. 🙂

      4. avatar DaveR says:

        That’s his “revolver grip” and–as is made pretty clear in the write up–that grip the only way he could make the gun NOT malf. So pretty damming of the design IMO

    2. avatar BLoving says:

      Sounds a bit like a “YMMV” issue, the gun didn’t fit your hand and a stronger mag button spring might of might not have fixed it.
      That said, clearly it does work well for some folks so… it still comes back to: choose a gun that fits YOU. If for any reason it doesn’t fit YOU, don’t buy it.

      1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

        My hands are larger and it was doing it to me, too. For all I know it does it on its own under recoil. It’s possible this particular gun was shipped with a bum spring behind the mag release button — too short or too weak, etc.

        1. avatar BLoving says:

          Welp.
          This may be an opportunity to test one more often-overlooked criteria of a gun choice: customer service. Can Kahr fix it and make it right? Was this dud just a one-off specimen and most coming off the line are fine? Do the engineers need to be fired?
          Granted, I’m usually reluctant to recommend a gun that doesnt pass TTAGs testing “right out of the box”, but would a follow up test be deserved in this case?

        2. avatar Bob H says:

          I had the same mag dropping issue with my sig p938. I had to swap the spring for a stiffer 1911 mag release spring, but I never got it 100% fixed for me. Maybe its my grip, possible it releases itself under recoil. I’m more inclined to think its because the gun is small and my hands are large.

    3. avatar Mark N. says:

      Ditto. With my grip, my dominant hand thumb cannot even touch the mag release, and the support hand thumb is out in front of the slide release. I have had my CW for 3 1/2 years and have NEVER encountered this issue.

      And by the way, Kahr does NOT recommend sling shotting, but instead using the slide RELEASE as Kahr intended. Singshotting tends to result in misfeeds, but using the release works every time.

  2. avatar Curtis in IL says:

    “3/4 the size and weight of a fully-loaded GLOCK 19.”

    You’re comparing it to the wrong gun. This should be compared to the Glock 43 and/or Smith & Wesson Shield.

    1. avatar Bark McDog says:

      +1.

      The Kahr P-9 / PM-9 were the Glock 42/43 and Shield before the world knew it wanted those guns.

      The long revolver trigger isn’t for everyone, sure, but if you want a pocket rocket, those’ll do.

    2. avatar Eric in Oregon says:

      I could be reading it wrong, but I think he’s pointing out that you don’t gain much for what you give up compared to a 19.

      1. avatar JT says:

        You’re reading it wrong.

        Grip size is the whole issue with concealability, and the double-stack Glocks fail miserably on that account.

        3/4 the size it may be, but it’s dramatically less likely to print from the same holster.

        It’s funny that the author has never carried a single-stack. I’ve never carried a double, in 25 years of CC.

  3. avatar former water walker says:

    Ummm…put a tiny bit of tape on the mag.And don’t hit the mag button. Presto! 4Stars. Oh and these sure as he!! aren’t 477!!!!

  4. avatar Texheim says:

    I would say you need to point your thumbs forward more. Just sayin’

  5. avatar Paul B. says:

    I have had a P9 for a while and have never had a problem with the mag dropping out. The main issue I have had is that the topmost round in a spare loaded mag easily dislodges, unless handled gingerly. Even when using a mag case, there are 3-4 loose rounds in it after a few hours. I guess this is due to the offset feed ramp design? I have read that the top round in the mag must be held pretty loosely in order to navigate the feed ramp.

    1. avatar kevin says:

      Agreed- I self-molded a snug kydex mag carrier which solved the problem, but it is an issue without one.

    2. avatar JT says:

      Buy a pocket mag carrier or pants with inner mag pockets.

      Keeps the lint out, too. And properly positioned for a speedy reload.

  6. avatar kevin says:

    This looks a lot like my CW9, which has been 100% reliable. I’ve never had the magazine issue that the author experienced. My CW9 is quite accurate and is as easy to shoot as a much larger gun. The trigger is like a d/a revolver- easy to shoot if you can shoot a wheel gun, and provides a similar measure of safety.

    My only knock on it is the reduced capacity over a double-stack gun, but the slim that goes with it is also a feature. Kahr also makes an 8 round mag that fits, which I keep as my spare.

    1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      This isn’t a CW9 and the mag release design differs from it.

      1. avatar kevin says:

        How does the release button differ? It looks identical. The magazines interchange. From Kahr’s website:

        This pistol is similar to the CW9093, but this new “S” Series model has the added features of white 3-dot sights, front serrations on the slide, an accessory rail, and an ID tag on the grip. Capacity is 7+1 and the pistol is shipped with two 7 round magazines. MSRP is $477.

    2. avatar JT says:

      I can routinely clear a pin table in the mid-3s with my CM9. I cannot do that with any other pocket-sized gun– I’ve tried. I can’t do it that quickly with some much larger guns. I love the Kahrs.

  7. avatar Bark McDog says:

    The Kahr P9 is plenty accurate mechanically. A-zones at 25 all day. Amazing for a gun as thin as my hand. You have to spend time with the trigger to get the stroke (giggity) right and a Hogue Hand-All Jr. helps with 200+ round sessions. I have four Kahrs and the fit and finish is always excellent. 7-rd mags are expensive at $30 a pop.

    The biggest issue with Kahr pistols is that they–as per the head gunsmith there–cannot handle hard primers such as found in European or military-issue ammo. A Glock brand Glock will reliably eat everything you put in it… a Kahr won’t. While that isn’t much of an issue if your self-defense ammo is HST or Gold Dot, it is an issue if your training ammo is, say, S&B because all you shoot is Glock and CZs. Why they can’t/won’t upgrade the ignition is beyond me but knocks a star off in my book as it makes me think the strike is anemic. It’s 2017… get with the program, Kahr.

  8. avatar Woody From NY says:

    I owned and carried a Kahr PM9 for about 3 weeks. I tried IWB and Pocket carry, always in a Holster. I had CONSTANT issues with the mag releasing. I tried buying extra mags and trying them, just in case. I called Kahr, they were helpful enough to suggest there was no problem with the gun and I was the problem. Everytime I pulled the gun from my pocket the mag would release, it wouldn’t fall free but it was free within the grip and would not cycle a round out of the mag. Kahr said they didn’t have any other spring options for the mag release. I ultimately considered using a glue around the release button to build up a wall so it wouldn’t release. I ultimately sold the gun. NOT IMPRESSED by either Kahrs design, or their customer service, it was a brand new very expensive pistol.

  9. avatar Specialist38 says:

    From the specs it look like it weighs around 17oz unloaded

    From your scale photo and prose, it weighs around 17oz loaded

    I want some of that magic IMI ammo.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      It is approximately 17 oz. unloaded with the mag. Without the mag, it weighs in at 15.7 oz. I have no idea how much 8 rounds of 9 mm weigh.

      1. avatar Specialist38 says:

        More.

  10. avatar J.T. says:

    So it’s basically just a CW9 with a rail.

    1. avatar Mark N. says:

      Basically, but it apparently has a different mag release design. It also has forward slide serrations and different sights than my CW9.

  11. avatar JohnT says:

    I own and carry a CW9 (summer carry mostly). One time on the range I had the case of one of my reloads fail. Blew out the blowout panel on the upper right of the grip and blew out the extractor. The gun was old enough to be just out of warranty. Emailed Kahr to ask them to inspect it and give me a quote to repair if possible. I specified up front that it was out of warranty and I was running my reloads, providing the reload data. A couple of weeks later the gun showed up repaired at no cost other than shipping one way. Mag release has not been an issue with that model. Whatever else you can say about Kahr, I can’t complain about the customer support.

  12. avatar Al Bondigas says:

    i’m sure the mag release malfunctioned just as the author reported. I’m also sure, from the photo, he has thumbs like summer sausages.

  13. avatar GS650G says:

    I had a similar though not as pronounced issue with the PPQ mag release. I swapped to the other side and it’s perfect. I like releasing the mag with my finger off the trigger.

    Surprised no one climbed on you for merely stating you cleared the gun before disassembly. Someone made hay in my PPQ review over what cleared means.

    The crowds getting rough around here. If they aren’t bitching about content and 3000 dollar gun reviews they harp over a review of an affordable gun albeit one that shots magazines before a peep shots himself

    1. avatar Adub says:

      There are so me new posters and trolls here. I think they either own Kahrs or hate Robert.

  14. avatar PWinKY says:

    I’ve carried a PM9 for 4 years now and never had an issue with the mag release during shooting.

    I do have issues with it carried at 4 o’clock IWB. 75% of the time the weight of my body engages the mag release when I’m seated in a vehicle. I’ve fixed this problem by reaching back and re-seating the magazine (always makes a slight click for me) and continuing about my day.

    I have stuck with the pm9 because it’s been 100% reliable, it seems to have great accuracy for such a small gun, I love the smooth trigger pull, and it’s smaller/simpler than the competition. It’s smaller than a Shield or a G43 and I prefer the DAO operation over the Sig 938 (which would be my second choice for pocket 9 CCW).

    I do own a G 26 but I carry the pm9 80% of the time.

  15. avatar Retro says:

    I’ve owned and carried a Kahr P9 for 14 years now, in a variety of holsters. I’ve never had a problem with the mag release, but I don’t have ham hocks for hands. It’s light, thin, and easy to shoot accurately, once you get used to the long trigger pull, like a revolver’s. Their triggers really shine in the steel frames, it’s a shame they don’t make an alloy frame. If you don’t carry the mags in a proper carrier, the top round WILL strip off all by its lonesome. Unless Kahr did something wierd with this gun’s mags, all of their mags fit in all their models of the same size or smaller.

    And the Name and E-mail fields STILL aren’t populating.

  16. avatar Odgh Bodkin says:

    Moonie cult guns. Almost as bad as Caracals. Give your money to any other company instead.

    1. avatar Mike says:

      Nitwit/ignorant comment OB.

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