I am on record as hating small pistols. Except that I don’t. I just haven’t found one that works with the kind of reliability I think a self defense weapon requires. My experience with my Kel Tec P3AT was dismal. The Rohrbaugh R9 I had generally functioned well, but was finicky about ammo, required recoil spring changes and cleaning frequently, had a funky tail hook mag release and it’s slippery as a bar of soap finish made it a difficult gun to enjoy shooting. The R9 is great for its occasional use design goal, but if I own a gun, I want to shoot it. Hopefully frequently . . .
Robert and Ralph keep telling me to get a Smith & Wesson Airweight revolver and be done with it. But I am just not a revolver guy (yet).
With summer on the way, I am finding it a bit more difficult to carry my darling G19, especially as I tuck in the shirt for business casual carry. I again began to think about getting some sort of pocket pistol, but which one? My mind was made up for me when I came across a classified add for a Kahr PM9 at a reasonable price. I went through my mental checklist of things I like in a self defense gun: Light weight? Check. Polymer frame? Check. No safety? Check. High capacity? Nope, but better than a revolver – something has to give to fit one in your pocket. Reliable? TBD – I’ve read mixed reviews on the Interwebs.
I decided to jump on it and got a new-to-me gun with only about 100 rounds on the clock. Will this be the gun to bring me back to the small pistol crowd?
The gun arrived dirty, lint filled and a bit gummy, like someone had shot it, oiled it once and stuck it in a pocket for a year, or two. Takedown was intuitive so I cleaned and oiled it, and proceeded to do some dry practice.
The trigger is long and smooth, moderate weight with a clean break and no noticeable stacking, I thought it very reminiscent of the HK LEM trigger. Reset is subtle, and way forward in the trigger stroke. For rapid fire, plan to move you finger back and forth completely through the entire trigger stroke. I imagine a decent revolver trigger feels the same.
Like most Kahrs, it feels very good in the hand. The grip for me is small enough that I control the trigger with the distal interphalangeal crease rather than the pad of the finger. The gun points naturally for me, but I note that the barrel and slide seem higher above my hand than a Glock. The return spring is very heavy. If I had arthritis or hand weakness, moving the slide could be a deal killer. Racking the slide feels twice as hard as a Glock.
Loaded with seven rounds of Gold Dots, the pistol weighs 19.5 oz. Add a Desantis Nemesis Pocket Holster and weight in pocket is 21.5oz. This bumps it just above my self-imposed 20 oz. limit for pocket carry, but I can’t say as it bothered me much at all.
My R9 came in just under an once lighter with the same set up. I’ll suffer the ounce and take the PM9 all day over the R9 for my purposes. I simply prefer the slide lock, ability to take +P ammo, and more traditional location of the magazine release. The PM9 draws easily depending on the pocket, but certainly not as easy as the various micro .380 offerings out there.
How did it shoot? In my first range session, I shot about 100 rounds each of Speer Lawman and Wolf steel cased 9mm as well as a magazine full of my carry ammo: Ranger SXT +P. I had no malfunctions of any kind with the brass ammo. The Wolf would fail to feed regularly on the second and third rounds of the seven round magazine only. The slide stayed open with this failure. The “tap” of a tap-rack-bang failure drill would regularly seat the unfed round, and I would be off to the races. I had no issues at all with the six round magazine, or any other positions in the seven rounder.
My second range session, I got a box each of Wal-Mart’s best: 200 rounds of relatively cheap ammo from Federal (Champion), Winchester (White Box), Tul-Ammo steel cased, along with a box of Aguila 124 grain. Zero malfunctions at all. I feel this gun is good to go from a reliability standpoint, just don’t use Wolf. All my shooting this session was done primarily one handed with the off hand and I can’t say that my hand feels bruised at all.
I did notice the higher bore axis and light weight compared to the Glock, but it’s not bad at all. Compared to the R9, this thing shoots like a dream. Rapid fire is marginally slower than a Glock simply due to the extra distance traveled by my finger. It is not difficult to shoot six rounds in under two seconds, but I could probably shoot ten rounds in the same time with the Glock.
My range sessions involve movement and plinking rather than bulls-eye stuff and the Kahr was plenty competent at keeping cans bouncing. At least until the ammo ran out and it seemed to run out quickly. I’ve been shooting mostly high capacity stuff exclusively for the last six months, and 6-7 rounds seems to run out awfully fast. I don’t usually carry extra ammo, but this pistol has me reconsidering that. Anyway, I had no difficulty hitting what I aimed at, and the sights came to eye easily. I had no trouble controlling the pistol with one hand or off hand, standing still or with movement. In some ways, I actually enjoyed shooting it more one handed.
Cleaning the gun after the first range session, I noted that it probably didn’t need the cleaning at all. I found minimal gunk, debris or stickiness. I think I could safely go 1000 rounds between cleaning if I cared to.
All in all, despite the seven round magazine’s rejection of cheapo ammo, I think the PM9 is a shooter, and a keeper. I certainly enjoyed running it and it could be the gun that changes my mind about small pistols. I now find myself a bit intrigued by the P380. I will run some more ammo flavors through the pistol and report back.
Capacity: 6+1, 7+1 (magazine with grip extension)
Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
Barrel: 3.1″, polygonal rifling; 1 – 10 right-hand twist
Length O/A: 5.42″
Slide Width: .90″
Weight: Pistol 14 ounces, Magazine 1.9 ounces
Grips: Textured polymer
Sights: Drift adjustable, white bar-dot combat sights
Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide
Magazines: 1 each: 6 rd flush floorplate & 7 rd extended grip
Ratings (out of five stars):
Ratings are based on other similar firearms. Final rating is not calculated from the constituent ratings.
Accuracy * * * *
Dead on. The PM9 is as accurate as the user and ammunition allow.
Ergonomics * * * *
Fits me great. Delightful to hold and shoot.
Ergonomics Firing * * * *
Fun to shoot. That’s saying a lot for a small nine.
Reliability * * * *
Chokes on Wolf ammo. Reliable with all other ammo tested so far (seven brands).
Customization * * *
Lasers, grips, mag extensions etc are available.
Overall Rating * * * *
The best pocket pistol I have tested to date.