Gun Tests: Kahr CT9 And CW380

Guns and Gear | Contributor

By Mike Cumpston with Deborah Davison, GUNS Magazine

From its beginnings in the late 1980s, Kahr Arms has been a dynamic innovator in the realm of concealable handguns. The compact, finely engineered models became a mainstay among discerning professionals and armed citizens alike. By September 2012 when we reviewed the compact, polymer frame CM9, the company had reached a point in their production processes where a Value Line alternative to the premium models was possible. Several expedients delivered handguns tactically and qualitatively equivalent to the originals at very significant savings.

The expedients include simplified machining operations and roll engraving of model and caliber lines on the slide. New polymer frames were lighter in weight, and struck a strong chord with contemporary buyers. A plastic front sight replaced one of steel, over a barrel having traditional instead of polygonal rifling. A MIM slide lock replaced the forged part, and the guns came with a single magazine rather than two.

Extra magazines are available from Kahr, as are moderately priced replacement forged slide stops for people who don’t fully trust MIM. Even with the added expense of spare magazines in the $45 range and a traditional slide stop under $25, there’s a significant savings over the premium versions. For example, the suggested retail of our sample CT9 Black Carbon fiber full-frame 9mm is $485. The premium equivalent, also with polymer frame, lists at $697, while the all-stainless KT9093 is $857.

The black carbon fiber treatment enhances the appearance of the polymer-framed models and the aggressive texture assures a firm grip. The CT9 and CW380.

9mm & .380

We have the full-sized frame, 4″ barreled model CT9 and the small CW380 pocket-sized one with 2.58″ barrel and weighing a bit over 11 oz. empty. The black carbon fiber treatment of the polymer frame introduces an interesting play of light and shadow amid the textured grip surfaces and the faux checkering on the front and back of the frame. This, along with an overall soft metallic sheen, creates the impression of “substance” — abundantly present in modern plastic but usually understated by polymer in plain, black trim or with various technicolor treatments.

Both pistols, after initial lubrication and a couple of shooting sessions, trip the Timney Trigger Pull gauge at 5 lbs., 8 oz.. These and other Kahrs share the same basic action, possibly right down to the individual components. The striker is partially “cocked” at rest, activated by a draw bar under a panel on the right side of the grip. The trigger pull is long and smooth with about 0.25″ of take-up and about 0.5″ of travel to the point of release.

The trigger is as substantial a safety feature as that of any DA pistol and it’s difficult to figure how anybody could set it off without conscious effort. The trigger requires about 0.5″ of travel to reset after firing and has no double-strike capability without at least a partial retraction of the slide. A passive striker block assures perfect drop-safety. They will fire with the magazine removed.

In reassembly, make sure the tiny spring visible in the slide release window mates with the edge on the release to hold it down or  you’ll have slide-lock issues. 

Rested Shooting

After chronographing, I shot both pistols from the bench at 25 yards just to see what they’d do. I shot the CT9 rested fore and aft on sandbags, shooting six single-effort 5-shot groups, giving myself an extra shot for a single group with one likely shooter-caused flier. I had one FMJ load and five high-quality 115- and 124-gr. standard and +P loads — all of which grouped very close to the sights. Group sizes ranged from 1.7 to 3.5″ with half of the groups measuring 2″ or less. Outstanding accuracy in anybody’s book for a gun like this.

Due to the small size of the .380, I shot it from two fists rested on top of a sand bag. The results include three, single-effort groups and two representing the best of two 5-shot groups. The RTX bullet load and the three premium JHPs recorded an eerily consistent 4.7 to 4.8″ hitting close to point of aim.

Deborah’s firm firing platform kept the SW380 running smoothly and is a critical element helping to keep any small pocket pistol perking along.

Practical Use?

At .9″ width, the CT9 is quite a bit narrower than the usual run of 4″-barreled 9s. Our leather Yaqui Slide belt holster from DeSantis Gunhide is designed to fit most double-action pistols but the narrow gauge of the Kahr precluded effective use of the tension screws and relegated it to range uses. Holsters specific to the full-frame 9s are featured on the Kahr site. Hits on the B27 target used for Texas handgun certification were comfortably within the maximum scoring level when I shot at the specified three, seven and 15 yards. Deborah and I extended the range to 25 yards at variable speed, just for fun, keeping most hits inside the generous maximum scoring area.

The Kahr Pistols feature a low barrel axis to minimize felt recoil, barrel rise and torque. Both the CT and the small CW380 were extremely controllable in rapid fire.

Both of us encountered a glitch with the larger pistol. There were no outright malfunctions but, on several occasions, the slide would fail to lock open on empty. On examination we found the magazine had come unlatched. We noticed our normal shooting grips placed our thumbs against the mag release. Recoil and torque were sufficient to briefly depress the catch, unlatching the magazine but not making it drop from the mag well. It happened with two shooters with greatly different hand geometry. We “solved” the issue by altering thumb placement. I’m thinking a slightly shorter magazine release button would likely eliminate the problem for everyone. Other shooters may not experience this issue if their grips or hand geometry are different.

Both pistols function perfectly and hit close to the sights out to 25 yards regardless of bullet weight or velocity. That carbon fiber look is like a sort of urban camo. Let’s play “Find the Kahrs ….”

Deep Cover

The long trigger cycle presents shooters transitioning to the Kahrs with a bit of a learning curve, but this was not a challenge for Deborah. She is a long-term Kahr owner and enthusiast and very well attuned to the micro-sized .380. Shooting at a brisk cadence, she kept her shots within the 9-ring of the B27 back to 15 yards and did a journeyman’s job at 25 as well.

She finds many first-time shooters are actually more comfortable learning with a double-action trigger of this nature. She does quite a bit of work with the minimum sized .380 and 9mm pistols, as the bulk of her handgun shooters are women who are new to shooting. Like most licensed carriers, regardless of gender, they are looking for an everyday carry item requiring essentially no alteration to their accustomed wardrobe. They are very adept at ignoring experts who “harrumph!” against such preference.

A large selection of pocket holsters are suitable for the CW380, and our DeSantis Soft Tuck is a decent deep concealment option for belt carry. Off-the-body carry modes are viable as are such things as clandestine holsters resembling cell phone carriers.

Kahr Arms responded to the anti-gun, anti-business environment in New York State by moving its corporate offices to Pennsylvania. The Kahr factory continues manufacturing and service operation in Worcester, MA. For parts, and a comprehensive array of accessories, see the web site.

Thanks to GUNS Magazine for this post. Click here to visit GUNSMagazine.com.

Better yet: Click here to check out subscription options to GUNS and get the magazine delivered to your door.

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