Gun Review: Kahr Arms CM9

[The following article originally appeared on, the online resource for Law Enforcement, and is reprinted by permission of the PoliceOne editorial team.  Visit PoliceOne to access articles, information, and resources that help officers across the United States protect their communities and stay safe on the streets.]

A few months ago I was looking for an intermediate-sized pistol for concealed carry. My old Colt Light Weight Commander .45 is too big for many situations and a handy little S&W .380 Bodyguard is very comfortable to carry, but too small a caliber to be truly comforting… I prefer a caliber that starts with the numeral “4.”

Fondling a number of pistols at the 2011 ILEETA conference, I liked the handling qualities of the Kahr polymer-framed pistols. In particular, their lower-priced “CW” series allows a full, three-fingered grip and their “double-action-only” trigger is about the best of the breed. So, I bought a CW40, a nice combination of small size and a nearly .45 power level.

Kahr wisely recommends 200 rounds of break-in shooting before trusting a pistol for self defense. The Kahr CW40 experienced more than a 10% malfunction rate over those 200 break-in rounds and was getting worse instead of better, so I called the factory to complain. For those who are wondering, I bought the gun from a local dealer at the going street price and made no mention of my “writer” status when I called the factory to complain. Kahr graciously paid to ship the gun to the factory for repair and returned it in about a week. The work order said they polished the feed ramp and extractor, though those parts had seemed pretty brightly polished before.

Heading back the range I took careful notes using several different factory loads I had on hand and found the pistol to now feed perfectly with most loads, but not at all with a couple of others. In fairness to Kahr, there is something inherently cantankerous about the short/squat geometry of the .40 S&W round and I have known other .40 caliber pistols to be finicky feeders. The nature of this CW40 points up the need to run several magazines of your carry ammunition through a weapon to make sure it is reliable with that load. Small, powerful pistols are also very hard on their springs, and after more than 500 rounds fired now, I installed a fresh recoil spring in the CW40 and its reliability improved still further. You should plan on replacing recoil springs on small, hard-hitting pistols every 500 to 1000 rounds for maximum reliability.

Kahr CM9 is a Keeper
When I saw recently that Kahr had launched a reduced-price version of the PM9, their smallest 9mm pistol, I decided to give them another chance. This time I called their media rep and requested one of the new CM9 pistols for a formal test and evaluation article.

What a gem! From the very first round, the CM9 has functioned almost perfectly; only one failure to feed with an aluminum-cased Blazer round. With the standard six-round magazine, the CM9 only allows two fingers on the grip frame, but with my pinky-finger curled under the magazine the pistol is very controllable, even with +P+ and 147 grain loadings. At least that’s my opinion. A couple of shooters have complained about the recoil of the lightweight CM9, which tips my postal scale at 15 ounces empty and about 20 ounces fully loaded with seven rounds (6+1).

Kahr advertises seven patents they hold on their designs, one of them being a slightly off-center feed ramp which allows the barrel to sit lower in relation to the web of your hand. The barrel of a Kahr pistol sits almost ¼ inch lower in your hand than a classic 1911-pattern pistol. Lowering the barrel reduces muzzle flip, a large component of the overall recoil equation, which explains the “soft” handling characteristics of these very small, very powerful pistols.

With a MSRP of $565 and a street price in the low $400 range, the Kahr CM9 is a solid choice for on-duty backup use or off-duty/retired concealed carry. The only problem I see with the CM9 is the lack of a second magazine. Shipping only one magazine with the pistol is part of how Kahr can shave $221 off the price of their identically-sized PM9, but it should be illegal to sell any defensive pistol with only one magazine. Even adding another $30 for a spare magazine makes the Kahr an attractively priced defensive package.

At Kahr’s website store you can purchase a set of Trijicon 3-dot night sights for $80 or a trigger guard-mounted Crimson Trace laser for $209, great options for low-light use.

The Kahr CM9 is a keeper. This reliable little 9mm will be spending a lot of time in an ankle rig or my front pants pocket. Still, I am somewhat conflicted… after all, I do prefer pistols with a “4” in the caliber designation.