Concealed Carry & Home Defense

Gun Test: Kahr Arms CT40

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By John Connor, GUNS Magazine

When considering the qualities of a good concealed-carry pistol some words come easily to mind; words like slim, light, simple and smooth. In fact, I think they come so easily to mind that sometimes they also fade away easily, and then get overlooked. Maybe the best way to avoid this is to remind yourself of their opposites. Would you go lookin’ for a concealed-carry piece that’s fat, heavy, complex and festooned with hooks and knobs stickin’ out the sides? Not likely.

“Reliability” is another appropriate word, though it’s not a desirable trait but rather an absolute requirement. “Accuracy” is another, but not “target accuracy.” A carry-gun may not be suited for cutting clover-leaves in paper at 50 yards, but should keep snap-shots in the clockworks at 7 yards 1-handed, and punching out the pump at 20, 2-handed. Add “power” to the list, and you’ve almost filled in the blanks for Kahr’s new .40 S&W CT40. Now add a really nice one: Affordable.

Kahr, taking note of the economic downturn some while ago, rolled out bargain-priced versions of some of their top-selling premium full-size pistols, the 4-inch barreled TP45, TP40, and more recently the TP9. They’re the “Value Series” CT models, and while they look like clones of the TP’s—and they are in most respects—the CT’s are priced more than $200 less than their fraternal twins!

Kahr achieved this savings by making a few less machining operations on the slide’s exterior—nothing negatively affecting performance—and simple roll marks versus engraving; mounting a pinned polymer front sight instead of a TP’s drift-adjustable sight; using a MIM rather than a forged slide-stop lever, and substituting a conventionally-rifled barrel for Kahr’s standard and far more expensive to produce match grade polygonal rifled barrel. Also, you only get one magazine with the CT’s—a situation easily rectified.

The pivotal question for most concealed-carriers is, “What difference, if any, do these differences make in a gunfight?” Read on and you can be the judge.


Kahr’s new CT40 with a comfortable IWB holster by N82 Tactical and Kahr’s special Spyderco Delica knife—a great concealed-carry trio.


Mech-And-Tech Specs

Decades ago Kahr made its bones in micro-precision machining and then in small, high-quality pocket pistols, and that heredity is evident. Our test CT40 is only 6.5 inches long and just 5.13 inches high with a very slim 0.94-inch slide and 0.925-inch wide frame.

Empty weight is 21.8 ounces. Compared to other gunmakers’ products, the size of Kahr’s TP’s and CT’s would be “compact,” and their weight is more in keeping with a “sub-compact”—without surrendering any strength. Despite that miniscule weight and spare dimensions, the polymer frame gives the largest hand a full-fingers grip. At the same time, consider that the “reach” from the surface of the trigger to the point where the web of the hand contacts the frame is only 2.375 inches—making it a comfortable and effective reach for even small hands. Check the triggerguard and you’ll see it accommodates fat-sausage fingers like mine as well as slender digits.

Peer down the port side and you’ll note the only protuberance is the flat, smooth slide-stop lever; no whale-tail safety paddles or “tactical-ish” bollards there. The only other feature is the easily reached and operated magazine release button. On the starboard, note the hefty external extractor and deeply relieved ejection port. At the muzzle, the slide is machined with a steep bevel, making re-holstering easier and more certain. The grip frame sides are nicely textured without being raspy, while the front and backstrap are very aggressively knurled providing an excellent purchase under stress and violent action.

The sights are crisp and clear, the front post bearing a white dot and the drift-adjustable rear sight bearing a white square centered under the U-notch. That combination gives you both speedy pickup for snap-shots and precision for deliberate aiming. Go squinty and focused when you may, but for fast work just put the dot over the square and squeeze!

The action is a trigger-cocking breech-locking DAO (Double Action Only) with a Browning-type recoil lug. It’s very strong and very simple. As my go-to gunsmith says, “There just ain’t much to go wrong, so it doesn’t,” which is why a Kahr PM has lived in his right front pocket since the mid-’90’s.

But the heart of a Kahr pistol is the trigger, and it’s ideally suited for speed-reactive fighting. Rather than moving a bar linearly, the smooth-surfaced ergonomically curved trigger rotates a multi-function cam. The feel is more like that of a tuned revolver than a conventional semi-auto pistol. It’s so different from other fire control systems that it’s protected by seven patents. As you move through the long, smooth trigger stroke the cam rotates, cocking the striker, pushing the positive firing-pin block out of position, and then releasing the striker.

Trigger pull weight remains constant through this arc, with no stacking. Before break-in, the pull measured 6 pounds, 1 ounce on a Lyman electronic gauge, and after break-in, 5 pounds, 13 ounces—nice. The release is clean (not “crisp as snapping a thin glass rod”), but just about perfect for a fighting pistol. Given the length of the stroke, accidental discharge is highly unlikely. It takes a deliberate pull, enhancing safety even if you just dump the piece in a pocket. I don’t recommend that, but I’ve done it with confidence.


All four brands of ammo proved very accurate. That’s a 5-shot 1-handed group at 10 yards, fired on a 1.25-inch dot.


The CT40 fieldstrips easily. Construction is simple and strong.

The magazines pop in positively and release and drop free smartly. The CT40’s mag capacity is 7 rounds.

Before heading to the range, get yourself a 4-ounce bottle of Militec-1 Synthetic Weapons Lubricant, a 1-ounce bottle with precision needle applicator, and a 1/4-ounce tube of their grease. Kahr uses Militec-1at the factory, and it’s some classy goop—kind of a high-tech “dry lube” in liquid suspension. It just makes sense to keep your cleaner, lube and protectant “in the family,” you know? I’ve found if you stick to Militec-1 from the start and follow the directions you may never have to use a solvent. Once well treated, you need very little lube.

Disassembly is simple and straightforward, so do that. For break-in, I wipe it down, then lube liberally—not dripping—but “lube-rich,” with a tiny dab of grease on hard chatter-and-bash points. After 80 to 100 rounds, I wipe off all the excess and soldier on. I kinda bust ’em in rather than break ’em in. Kahr recommends putting 200 rounds through their new pistols before you consider them reliable for carry. My rule is 400 rounds. I put over 500 through this one in two sessions. If you do this, wear a glove. I did. The aggressive knurling I mentioned is great for gunfighting, but not for marathon machine-gunning.

As expected, there were several failures to go completely into battery in the first 50 to 60 rounds. All these occurred with the first round from a full magazine after firing the leader “up the pipe.” Also, a dozen times during that same sequence, ejected empties came flyin’ straight back at me, dingin’ me just above the cap brim. After that it was smooth sailing and malfunction-free straight shooting all the way. By the way, I devoted the entire first session to just clearing her throat, stretching her legs and introductory dancing, shooting for accuracy later. Glad I did.


The “Value Series” CT 40 (bottom) with a more expensive cousin, a TP 45 at top. The CT pistols may lack some refinement, but they’re fine fighting pistols.

How did she perform? I don’t own .40’s, but I shoot them from time to time. I haven’t shot such a well-behaved example in years, and that was a full “full-sized” model weighing 2 pounds. The CT40 was rock-stable in the hand, and shot right to point of aim. I attribute a lot of the stability to the geometry of the grip, and its controllability to that and the low bore axis. After I got rockin’ with the roll of the trigger, it was an unexpected pleasure.

Accuracy flat-out surprised me. I must have been having a really good day. I’ll credit that to the pistol and premium ammo, but I’ll take a bow if somebody applauds.

About the ammo: All four types are premium-grade, and any one of them would be a great choice for defensive duties. Federal’s Personal Defense was the softest-shooting, and since it pushes a Hydra-Shok slug you can be assured of great terminal effect. Hornady’s Critical Defense produced the stoutest recoil, with a heavy slug at over 1,100 fps. The FTX is a “pre-stuffed” hollowpoint made to overcome the “plugging effect” of heavy clothing and still achieve significant expansion. CorBon 135’s shot snappy yet still controllable—check the velocity of those puppies! If you’re a “faster is better” shooter, this is your chamber-chow. I’ve shot Nosler’s Match Grade ammo in three calibers now and its accuracy and consistency is outstanding. Check the Extreme Spread in chronograph data: 22 feet per second!

In addition to the accuracy groups, I burned lots of powder shooting “rapid sevens” on half-sized silhouettes at 7 yards, putting five shots in center mass and then two in the gourd. This is where the CT40 really sang, producing results like five rounds into 1.3 inches high by 1.5 wide with four in the 10-oval, plus two shots 0.75-inch apart in the head. That was my best, but you get the picture. The CT40 proved itself as a gunfighter’s gun. And for $449? Sweet! Connor OUT
By John Connor

CT40 Model CT4043
Maker: 130 Goddard Memorial Drive
Worcester, MA 01603
(508) 795-3919

Action: Trigger cocking DAO locked breech, passive striker block,
Caliber: .40 S&W,
Capacity: 7+1,
Barrel: 4 inches,
Overall length: 6.5 inches,
Height: 5.13 inches,
Slide Width: 0.94 inches,
Weight: 21.8 ounces,
Grips: Textured polymer,
Sights: Drift adjustable white bar-dot combat rear, pinned in polymer front,
Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide,
Price: $449

.40 S&W Factory Ammo Performance

Load Velocity ES Group Size Group Size
(brand, bullet weight, type) (fps) (fps) (10 yards) (inches) (20 yards) (inches)
Cartridge Highest Velocity Lowest Average Extreme Spread
CorBon 135 JHP 1,394 29 2 3.375
Federal Premium PD165 JHP 1,000 30 1.75 3
Hornady Critical Defense 165 FTX 1,122 42 1.25 3.13
Nosler Match Grade 150 JHP 1,158 22 1.375 3

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Tags : 40 sw
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