(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 do not: A three-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.
Before diving into the CW9, it’s worth mentioning the other models Kahr offers as a seven-rounder: The P9 and K9. Here’s a quick reference of the differences:
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.
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.
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 three fingers — well actually two-and-a-half fingers — while keeping the pistol small overall. It is very thin at only .9025 inches wide. When I grip the pistol, there are only two 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 9mm handguns.
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.
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-pound 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.
I 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 accidentally “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.
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.
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.
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.).
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.
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.
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.
As you would expect, this small nine is extremely easy to carry inside the waistband (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 a carry pistol.
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.
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.
Specifications (from the Kahr Arms website)
Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
Barrel Length: 3.565″, conventional rifling (not polygonal); 1:10 right-hand twist
Overall Length: 5.9″
Slide Width: .90″
Weight: Pistol 15.8 ounces, Magazine 1.9 ounces
Grips: Textured polymer
Sights: Drift adjustable white bar-dot combat (rear sight), pinned in polymer night sight (front sight)
Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide;
Magazine: (1 ) 7-round magazine included, Stainless
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.