Just because I carry a boat anchor cleverly disguised as a 1911 doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a gun that’s roughly the same size and weight as an iPhone 6+. Pocket pistols have their place. Guess where? And no, I’m not a hypocrite. When I advise people to schlep the heaviest gun they can comfortably carry I’m aware that a 13.9 ounce fully loaded CW380 is the heaviest gun some people can comfortably carry. Have you slipped a 9mm sub-compact in the front pocket of an Ermenegildo Zegna summer weight suit? Let’s just say no one’s pleased to see you. Anyway, here’s the thing about the Kahr CW380 . . .
It fires a piss-ant little bullet. The .380 ACP round coming out of the Kahr’s snout is positively dainty, especially when compared to its larger caliber cousins. Why carry a .380 semi-automatic handgun when any number of tiny nines will fire an equally improved bigger, badder 9mm cartridge? Because the Kahr CW380 is a pussycat.
There’s a size below which a 9mm handgun becomes a jumpy little bastard. Where range practice is about as much fun as hitting your hand with a hammer. Repeatedly. If you’re discounting the Kahr Arms CW380 as a pocket gun because you have more faith in a 9mm bullet’s ability to stop a deadly threat, I recommend a compact rather than a subcompact 9mm. The CW380 — or a larger 9mm pistol — offers you the best chance of initial accuracy and on-target follow-up shots.
What’s that you say? Who cares about accuracy when we’re talking about a gun designed to be used at bad breath distance? Nobody, really. Except anyone who values shot placement over the misguided belief that any handgun round will cause immediate bad guy incapicitation (provided said bullet enters said miscreant in that hallowed ground known as center mass). Or anyone who doesn’t think they can miss an attacker at seven yards.
In short, there’s nothing terribly wrong with choosing a .380 for armed self-defense. The Kahr CW380 is minute-of-bad-guy all day long. Well, for seven rounds. If this or another .380 is the easiest, maybe even only way to carry, carry on. At the risk of repeating myself, never forget that concealed carry comfort is . . .
a weighty issue. The lock breech, modified Browning type recoil lug CW380 is one of the smallest and lightest .380’s money can buy. Those of you who gravitate to all things GLOCK please note that the .380 caliber GLOCK 42 (and the 9mm GLOCK 43) weigh in at 22.36 oz. That’s 8.46 ounces — half a pound — more than the smaller Kahr. A difference you can feel. Or, more accurately, don’t have to feel.
As always, the mention of Gaston’s gat raises the issue of reliability. This website reviewed a Kahr CW380 that failed to feed, eject and lock back. (We also featured a G42 that did the same thing.) That’s completely unacceptable for a carry pistol. The factory-recommended 200-round break-in period isn’t entirely reassuring, either. And the Kahr won’t reliably load Speer Gold Dots for love nor money. (Hornady Critical Defense fed like Luby’s.)
All that said the Kahr CW380 I tested experienced none of those issues through 1000 rounds, including one initial cleaning to remove the factory’s test-fire residue and one mid-test cleaning. I would trust my life to this gun. ‘Nuff said?
How about this: the Kahr CW380 is the Keira Knightley of .380’s: dangerously thin, endlessly sleek and entirely elegant. Our black and grey sample was perfectly proportioned: 4.96″ long by 3.9″. That said, the long-fingered amongst us — you lucky bastards — should give the CW380 a miss, lest your index finger extend beyond the gun’s muzzle when not pulling the trigger. The CW380’s textured polymer grip stippling is no more aggressive than a slightly peeved Schnauzer, but secures the firearm like a locked kennel.
The CW380’s trigger is river stone smooth and gently curved, with none of that GLOCK trigger-pull-within-a-trigger-pull safety action misegos. Yes, the Kahr’s go-pedal motors miles from initial take-up to its vanishing point. And yes, the reset takes you all the way back to GO, passing every property on the board. But the CW380 is a perfectly controllable firearm, astoundingly accurate for one so small — especially when fed with hollow-points it likes (your mileage will vary). And hey! The slide locks back when you’re done.
Unlike a similarly-sized revolver (e.g. the Smith & Wesson 640), the CW380’s drift adjustable white bar-dot combat rear sight and pinned polymer front sight are a lot more than mostly useless. Sit the CW380’s front sight on top of the rear, Heinie Straight 8-style, and you’ve got an excellent idea of where your bullet will go. Combined with the cartridge’s minimal recoil, fast follow-up shots are easy — provided you grip the diminutive gun like grim death.
The CW380 is the P380’s cheaper brother ($419 vs. $667 ). The “budget” CW sports a conventional rifled barrel instead of the P’s match grade polygonal barrel, the CW’s slide stop lever is metal-injection-molded, and the CW380 comes with one less Pez dispenser. Make that magazine. Ask my Mercedes dealer; I’m a sucker for upgrades. But this Kahr isn’t one of those upgradeable machines where the value-driven consumer will have to complain or explain.
While Kahr Arms rightly touts the CW380 as an ideal back-up gun, the eminently pocketable pistol’s quality, portability, reliability, accuracy and price tag make it suitable for buyers looking for a handgun to carry when they can’t carry a larger firearm. The CW380 adds a welcome measure of ballistic protection for those who earn their crust suited and booted, or engage in what younger people call “an active lifestyle.” Remember: if you like your nine millimeter, you can keep your nine millimeter. And have a Kahr CW380 for pocket carry.
Kahr CW380 Specifications:
Caliber: .380 ACP
Capacity: 6+1 (flush mag) or 7+1 (extended mag)
Materials: Black polymer frame and matte stainless steel slide
Weight: 10.2 oz without magazine
Barrel Length: 2.58”
Barrel Rifling: Conventional 1 in 16 right hand twist
Overall Length: 4.96”
Sights: Drift adjustable white bar-dot combat rear, pinned in polymer front
Action: Striker-fired, double action only
Price: $419 MSRP
Kahr CW380 Ratings (out of five stars):
Style * * * * *
It’s a pretty little thing that somehow maintains the macho.
Ergonomics (carry) * * * *
It’s the pocket pistol, easily concealed in a simple sleeve. That said, grabbing the CW380 from any holster is more than a bit fiddly, requiring a grip change before deployment.
Ergonomics (firing) * * * *
How can one so small be so demure? Something to do with a recoil spring stouter than a glass of Guinness. [Note: manhandle that slide and press check to make sure the CW380 is loaded.] Grip it like a python and you’re good to go.
Reliability * * * * *
Others have reported issues, which may or may not be related to limp-wresting. Ours was failure free for 1000 rounds.
Customization * * *
You can fit the CW380 with night sights and/or a laser — which add considerably to the cost of a gun that isn’t exactly cheap (despite being the P380’s less expensive sibling).
Overall * * * * *
Caliber snobs need not apply. Gun buyers who want or need a really small soft-shooting pistol should add this to their arsenal.