Gun Test: Kahr S9 Pistol
Kahr Arms introduced its new S9 pistol at the 2017 NRA Annual Meetings in Atlanta. An upgrade over the company’s similar CW9, the new S Series offers value-added features such as three-dot sights, forward slide cocking serrations, an accessory rail and two magazines.
Kahr developed the CW line in 2005 to help the manufacturer compete head-to-head with companies such as Taurus and Ruger that were producing budget-friendly firearms. To get its cost down, Kahr went away from the premium Lothar Walther barrels with polygonal rifling used in its premium series, and chose instead conventionally rifled barrels. New slide contours, which required less machining time, were implemented, and the machined slide stop was replaced with a metal-injection-molded part. Rather than ship the gun in a plastic case, Kahr used a cardboard box and included a single magazine. With these changes the company was able to offer the CW line for 20 percent less than its premium P Series models, and that put a Kahr product within reach of most concealed carry users. The CW line was extremely successful, but after 12 years it was time for an update, and the S Series pistols were designed to that end.
Mechanically very little has changed on the S9 from previous models. It utilizes a Browning-style lockup in order to fire from a locked breech. Kahr’s double-action-only “Safe-Cam” trigger action, which uses a two-lobed cam for operation, is retained in the S9. As the trigger is pulled, one cam draws the preloaded striker back a short distance while the other lobe depresses the mechanical firing pin block. It’s a proven design that prevents the gun from firing unless the trigger is pulled.
The S9 uses a stainless steel barrel with conventionally cut rifling. Another Kahr innovation is the barrel’s offset feed ramp. While most manufacturers simply place their trigger bar below the feed ramp, Kahr offset the feed ramp so the trigger bar could be placed alongside it, resulting in an extremely low bore axis, which translates to better control during recoil, reduced muzzle flip and quicker follow-up shots.
Kahr molds two stainless steel sub-chassis into its polymer frame. These parts provide the rails for the slide to ride on, so there is no metal-to-plastic contact. There are rails on the inside of the frame’s dustcover that engage bilateral recesses on the bottom of the slide. With the addition of the two-slot accessory rail, Kahr moved the serial number plate from the bottom of the dustcover to the left side of the grip. The firm also redesigned the frame to meet the magazine’s baseplate. In the past, Kahr had received criticism for the unsightly gap between the bottom of the frame and the magazine’s base pad. The S9’s round, textured, right-hand magazine-release button is located to the rear of the trigger guard for easy activation by the shooter’s thumb.
Previous models had recommended in their manuals that the guns be broken-in with at least 200 rounds of ammunition, however, the cost of this break-in procedure dissuaded some potential customers from buying a CW9. Kahr’s solution was to build a hydraulic fixture to cycle each gun hundreds of times before shipping it out. This process breaks loose any microscopic burs and burnishes the metal parts, in effect, breaking the gun in at the factory. Additionally, the chamber of the barrel is polished and honed. Kahr states that the S9 should be ready to carry straight from the box, although a prudent person will test any new gun with his or her desired carry ammunition. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the owner to ensure his or her gun and ammunition work correctly together before carrying them for personal protection.
One consistent factor that makes Kahr guns such nice shooters is their trigger—the relatively long trigger pull of the S9 requires about 5 lbs. of pressure for the pistol to fire. Because the gun has no manual safety, the S9’s long trigger pull is a safeguard to prevent an inadvertent discharge. The S9’s trigger is about 3/8″ wide, and has a smooth and polished face. For off-hand shooting, too, the S9’s grip is very comfortable and points naturally.
Accuracy testing was conducted at 15 yds., and we found that sandbags and the S9’s railed dustcover made for a very steady rest, which helped keep our sights aligned during the long trigger press. Groups hovered around an inch with each load tested. We placed a 16″x16″ steel target at 15 yds. to see how quickly the gun could be fired. Using a PACT electronic timer, we fired controlled pairs at the target, and found that our average split of time between shots was 3/10ths of a second. Despite the gun’s light weight of just 18 ozs., we found muzzle flip to be minimal due to the gun’s low bore axis.
Our impression of the new Kahr S9 was very favorable. We found it to be a well-built handgun whose accuracy, light weight and flawless reliability should make it an attractive choice for those in search of a concealed carry handgun.