Since Kahr's inception more than a decade ago, shooters have been asking for a .45 ACP. Well, the pistol is here. For fans of Justin Moon's brilliant Kahr pistol series, the gun turns out to have been worth the wait.
Almost imperceptibly larger than the little P9 pistol in 9mm, this polymer-frame P45 holds a half dozen .45 ACP cartridge in its magazine, and a seventh in the launch tube. You can almost get one more in the magazine, which tells me it won't be long before we see a new floorplate either from Kahr or the aftermarket allowing a bit more space with only a bit more protrusion, and turns the P45 into an eight-shot pistol.
A bit large for pocket carry, the P45 is perfect for inside the waistband. It's slim, flat and free of dig-in-the-body edges. Width is 1.01", versus .90" for the 9mm version. Weight is 18.5 ounces with magazine removed. Add a couple of ounces for the magazine plus the weight of half a dozen .45 rounds, and you're still well within the comfort zone of a pistol well suited for all day concealed carry.
I put the P45 through my usual protocol of five-shot groups from the 25-yard MTM bench rest, measured twice. Once for overall group – a "shootability preview" and best three shots for "inherent mechanical accuracy with human error minimized." Loads ranged from wild to mild, from Plus-P to what you might call "Minus-P." Testing encompassed three popular bullet weights and five popular brands. Measurements were center to center, to the nearest .05".
I've been shooting and testing Kahr pistols since they came out. They tend to suffer from what has been defined as "4+1 syndrome," in which the first hand-cycled shot goes to a different point of impact than subsequent, automatically cycled rounds. This pistol, it turned out, did so with four out of six types of ammo. For that reason, I added one more measurement: the best four shots.
All this shooting was done at 25 yards, the farthest distance at which most police officers in America shoot qualifications today. A self-defense pistol like the Kahr will likely be fired at much closer quarters.
At seven yards, this pistol will shoot a ragged one-hole group. Offhand at 10 yards, I put a six-shot magazine of the snappy Blazers into 3/4". This pistol shoots.
From the 25-yard line on Bianchi targets, shooting from the barricade, I was able to keep 12 out of 12 shots in the 10 ring, half of them in the tiebreaking center X-ring. One thing that impressed all of us a decade ago was once it got past the first hand-chambered round, the blasted thing shot like a target pistol. In the .45 ACP version, I'm delighted to report, the tradition continues. Recoil is remarkably soft for such a light .45, even shooting the heavy stuff. With the poofy Gold Medal loads, the thing is a pussycat.
Traditional for Kahr is fixed sights with a "dot the I" Von Stavenhagen pattern of white dot front, white vertical line rear. With sights like these (and 3-dot systems as well), the dot sits below the top edge of the front sight and the shooter actually has the option of two sighting planes. At 25 yards, I used the traditional post-in notch sight picture, and the groups all went a bit low. Using the dot and the bar, everything hit center or a tad high, depending on the load.
The gun does have some sharp edges. I've been crusading in print for years now for Kahr to round the edges of their slide stop so it won't gouge the thumbs of right-handed shooters. It looked as if some progress was made in this regard on recent models. Then, blam, here comes the P45 with square corners top and bottom at the rear of the slide stop. It won't be a problem for left-handed shooters, but right-handers need to either get the corners rounded off or keep their thumbs out of the way. (Clark Custom Guns does a very nice melt job on Kahrs solving the problem perfectly).
I would just curl my firing thumb down, but for the fact the Kahr has such a short trigger reach my bent thumb gets in the way of my trigger finger when I'm firing. The short reach is a good thing, one reason so many smaller stature males and petite females have fallen in love with Kahr pistols. It just needs some adaptation. I found if I kept my firing thumb absolutely straight and pointed at the target in one-hand shooting, it rode beneath the slide latch and didn't cause any problems. In two-handed shooting, I went with the grasp pioneered by Rob Leatham and Brian Enos with my right thumb on the proximal joint of my left thumb and completely away from the pistol's frame, which kept it out of harm's way.
The P45 has remarkably smooth and light traditional Kahr double-action only (DAO) trigger pull. This contributes to good deliverable accuracy. It also allows a surprise break, and is particularly helpful to shooters susceptible to jerking the trigger.
In the trigger area on this particular pistol, however, I found another problem. The toe of the trigger – its very bottom surface – literally comes to a point. Meanwhile, the triggerguard has an upward "dent" built into its lower surface. This bend appears to be there to help the topmost finger of the support hand nestle securely in place. This it does well.
When combined, though, my trigger finger was pinched between the sharp edge of the trigger and the upward swell of the inside of the triggerguard. After about 60 rounds, it became noticeably uncomfortable. I asked myself if I would take this gun to a shooting school where I fired as much as a 1,000 rounds a day. The answer was no.
How ironic. People think the problem with a small, light .45 is going to be hurt by hellacious recoil. In the P45, this isn't the case at all. But it ain't good if it hurts your trigger finger even in dry fire.
Fortunately, this problem is easily solved. The lower portion of the triggergaurd could stand to be reshaped. The toe of the trigger definitely needs to be a more rounded surface.
I don't mean to imply that it's torture to shoot. I took it to the range for one of my state's Police Standards and Training approved off-duty gun courses. I do this with most defense guns I test. A qualification is the next-best way to see how a sidearm handles at speed when you're feeling the pressure. Another is to actually carry it concealed to gauge comfort, snag potential, etc.
The course included 60 rounds of 230-grain full-power .45 ACP, one-hand only with either hand, two-hand standing, kneeling, etc. The target dujour was the tough Bianchi Cup "tombstone" shaped cardboard, used in NRA Action Pistol and Glock Shooting Sports Foundation events. Its scoring rings are unforgiving, with a 4" X-ring, 8" 10-ring, etc. When the great Combat Master Ray Chapman created this target, he intended it to be shot with full-size combat pistols, not a little hideout like the P45.
Nonetheless, the little gun was up to the task. It gave me a pleasingly sweet little group on the first stage, weak-hand only, and never stopped trying to help me shoot well. The smooth, light trigger pull was long enough to make each shot a surprise. The soft recoil combined with StressFire shooting techniques, allowed the barrel to snap back on target instantly after each shot. Reloads were smooth and clean. The release button was easy to reach, the magazines always fell free without snag and, since I learned to smack fresh mags in with authority, there was no problem. The sharp edge of the slide release lever was not agony, merely irritation, and always snapped the slide home on a fresh round.
At the end of the qualification, my hand wasn't the least bit sore from recoil. This gun absorbs it well. My trigger finger wasn't bleeding or anything, I had just had to put up with a little irritation from the sharp edge. I had been careful to keep my right thumb out of the way, pointing it straight at the target and locating it just under the slide stop. The result was pleasing: a 100-percent score of 600 out of 600 under time, with 57 of those shots in the X ring. The group measured 3.65", which is better than I shoot on this course with some larger pistols. Simply put, this small .45 shoots like a big .45 and, indeed, shoots better than a lot of big .45s.
A lot of students show up at my LFI classes (www.ayoob.com) around the country with various Kahr pistols. They've often emerged as top shots in their class with these accurate, shootable little carry guns. More to the point, most of them will come in, shoot the allotted number of rounds, and leave happy, without ever having to either clean their gun or clear a malfunction. Most Kahr pistols are extremely reliable.
I have long suggested no firearm be trusted for self-defense until 200 of the chosen carry loads have gone through it with 100 percent reliability. Kahr has been one of the very few manufacturers honest enough to say the same thing. They urge all owners to fire 200 rounds through a "break-in" period analogous to the first 500 miles you drive with a new automobile. The concept is, "seat the parts" and get them used to working in cycle with one another. In the first 200 round break-in several failures of the next fresh cartridge to fully seat in the chamber occurred. The problem disappeared somewhere near Round 180.
The 60-shot qualifier went fine, without a hitch. I took the gun with me to the Great Lakes area on a training tour. Legal to carry there, I used it as a backup gun in an old Southwinds Sanctions nylon holster secured to the strap of my Second Chance vest. It rode there in total comfort. I handed it around among 25 people, most of whom were eager to shoot it. They ran it with assorted hollowpoint and ball rounds. Zero malfunctions.
Round count is now up to well over 500, with no malfunctions whatsoever after the 200-round break-in period specified by the factory was reached. "Your mileage may vary." One Internet poster reports hits Kahr P45 sailed through the first 200 shots without a malfunction, and with none since.
At $737 with plain sights and $845 with night sights, this pistol is not overpriced. About half of those who shot the test gun said, with what sounded like sincerity, "I'm gonna buy one of these." The Kahr P45 is an endearing pistol. If you like the .45 cartridge and want a good-shooting compact, check it out. As far as it only holding seven rounds, consider for most of the 20th century, American fighting men carried seven-shot 1911s with chambers empty and were generally recognized as the best-armed pistoleros on the battlefield.
|Notes on Accuracy|
The 200-grain jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) fed well despite its short overall length and gaping mouth, which has made this cartridge a litmus test for .45 auto reliability over the years. Accuracy was within what some in the business call "acceptable for service," 4" at 25 yards. Specifically, the Blazer did 3.75" for all five shots, with one more following the first and lowest hit for a 3.25" cluster for rounds two through five. The best three shots were in 2.35".
More accurate in the Kahr .45, two iterations of the same weight bullet were tried. The company's Gold Medal Match 185-grain jacketed semi-wad-cutter is standard issue for our top-line military pistol teams because of its famous accuracy, and here it delivered a 2.80" five-shot group. The first hand-chambered shot went low, shots two through five were in 1.15", and the best three of those were in 1.05". This is phenomenal accuracy for such a compact .45 auto.
Federal's 185-grain JHP Classic load is also famously accurate, and has worked quite well as a man-stopper on the streets, too. Five of these went in a group that measured only .5" in width, but 2.30" in height, a distance that was stretched by the "4+1 syndrome" with the first shot low. Two through five punched holes a mere 1.35" apart, and the best three were in .85", out shooting the Gold Medal Match in that regard. This round kicks significantly less than any 230-grain combat load.
The hottest round tested, the 230 grain +P is loaded to send its famous XTP bullet out of a 5" barrel at 950 fps. I've found this an extremely accurate round and an excellent hunting load in .45 ACP because it penetrates deeply before it expands. I once put one through a wild hog's brain from about 15 paces. Because the bullet went through the eye socket and didn't hit much heavy bone resistance until it was on its way out, it exited and was not recovered, but the size of the exit wound indicated that mushrooming was underway when the XTP bored through. Out of the Kahr P45, a quintet of these hot loads delivered a 2.25" group at 25 yards. No "4+1" this time – the second bullet made a "double" with the first. The four tightest shots were in 1.80", and the three tightest in an extraordinary .70".
The newest version of the Golden Saber is a 185-grain brass-jacketed HP loaded to standard pressure for light recoil. It did not suffer from "4+1," printing five shots in 2.65" with the first shot right in the center. Best four measured 1.40", and best three, 1.05".
The generic 230-grain JHP has earned a good history as a police load and it put five shots in 3.45". The best four shots measured 3.30", and the best three, 1.35".
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