In recent years, the concealed carry market has largely driven the firearms industry. Manufacturers have seen some of their greatest successes with small, compact firearms like the SIG SAUER P238 and Ruger LCP.
The current trend seems to be to “upsize” some of these compact, frequently .380 ACP firearms, into 9mm-chambered pistols. We’ve seen the introduction of the Ruger LC9 and SIG P938, for example, as well as the very recent introduction of the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield.
Kahr Arms has been making compact pistols for self-defense for more than 15 years. For the past decade, Kahr has made a gun for the ultra-compact 9mm pistol niche: the PM9. More recently, Kahr introduced the CM9, which could be described as a budget-friendly PM9.
CM9 vs PM9
The CM9 is a lower-cost version of the company’s PM9 pistol. Both handguns share the same dimensions, fit the same holsters and use the same magazines. However, the CM9 has an MSRP of $517, which is $269 less than the PM9’s $786 suggested retail. One would reasonable question what level of quality reduction the CM9 suffers to achieve a significantly lower price tag.
There are a few differences between the two pistols worth mentioning. First, the PM9 uses a “match grade” barrel with polygonal rifling, which is said to be more accurate than the conventional rifling used in the CM9.
The CM9 uses a MIM (metal-injection-molded) slide stop instead of a machined part. Markings on the CM9’s slide are inexpensive engraving as opposed to the roll marks used on the PM9.
The front sight on the CM9 is fixed, pinned into place. The front sight on the PM9 is dovetailed, allowing the easy installation of any aftermarket sight. Additionally, the PM9 has a tritium front sight as optional from the factory. No such option is available on the CM9.
The CM9 only ships with one, six-round magazine. The PM9 ships with two magazines: a single six-round mag and an extended, seven-round magazine.
The CM9 is a polymer-framed handgun that uses a stainless steel slide and barrel. The slide is finished in a matte silver color.
The trigger is double-action-only (DAO). Even though the CM9 is considered an “economy” gun, it uses the same patented cam trigger system found in the other Kahr guns. The system gives the shooter a smooth, consistent pull on every shot fired.
I’ve heard many people refer to the Kahr trigger as being “revolver-like,” and I would agree insomuch as the pull is nothing like a Glock, Springfield XD or Smith & Wesson M&P. It is very smooth, without any grittiness or hitches. Using a Lyman electronic trigger pull gauge, I measured an average of 6 pounds, 8.5 ounces for the weight of pull.
The barrel length is three inches and the gun weighs slightly less than 16 ounces with an unloaded magazine. At the widest point, the gun is a mere 0.9” thick. Overall length is only 5.3”. All in all, this is a very compact package.
The standard, flush-mount magazine holds six rounds, while optional seven-round magazines are available. With the flush-mount magazine, my pinky finger had nothing to grasp while shooting. The seven-round mag extends beyond the base of the pistol, allowing a full grip on the CM9.
The CM9 proved to be very accurate and reliable on the range. Additionally, it was enjoyable to shoot, which is something that cannot always be said about compact pistols.
As with any gun I test, I ran many different factory loads through the gun. For this gun, I shot Federal American Eagle FMJ, Winchester white box FMJ, two different Federal HST loads, Federal BPLE +P+ JHP, Remington green box JHP, Winchester PDX1 and Speer Gold Dot.
The CM9 handled all of the different ammunitions easily, with only one round failing to feed properly. That was an American Eagle FMJ round within the first 20 rounds shot through the gun. No other malfunctions of any kind were experienced with this gun during the following hundreds of rounds fired.
Recoil was light and easily managed. The sights were easy to see in daylight and dim conditions.
Shooting with an extended magazine was more comfortable than with the flush-mount magazine. I hate having my pinky finger floating. However, accuracy was still very good with the shorter magazine. In fact, I could not tell any significant accuracy differences between shooting the two.
The CM9 is a fantastic concealed carry pistol. It is thinner than my Airweight J-frame revolver, yet it holds 6+1 rounds of significantly more potent 9mm than the revolver’s five rounds of .38 Special. The CM9 also has better sights and a faster reload than my J-frame.
Compared to the more expensive PM9, the CM9 does have a few drawbacks including the inability to easily replace the front sight with a night sight and it only shipping with one magazine. I don’t see either the machined slide stop or polygonal rifling as being a reason to spend almost $300 more for the PM9.
If you are looking for a reasonably priced, compact pistol, I recommend you take a look at the CM9. I’ve seen prices on the pistol frequently less than $450, which seems to me to be a great bargain.