One handgun maker that has been in the forefront of concealable handgun technology since the 1990’s is Kahr Arms. Their innovative products have captured a good portion of the market share for small, easily carried handguns that are chambered in such popular calibers as .45 ACP, .40, and 9mm. Not only do their products have appeal in the stratum of civilian concealed-carry, but they have been embraced by law enforcement and have been approved for carry by such prestigious agencies as the NYPD and more recently, the Chicago Police Department.
I have tested several Kahr pistols over the years and one of my favorite pistols for off-duty concealed carry is the Kahr CW40, one of their “value” priced offerings. I heard that Kahr was working on a tiny .380 ACP pistol and I bothered sales manager Frank Harris and Blue August PR director Dana Ruff all through the year until they told me that the new .380 was being shipped to me.
True to their word, my wife signed for the box from Kahr the day before I arrived back home and I found it waiting for me on the kitchen table. I didn’t waste any time getting into that box and I can tell you that when I saw the new P380 I knew that it was worth the wait. It is truly one of the smallest .380 ACP pistols around and all it takes is one look to know that it is a Kahr, mainly because it looks like many of the other Kahr handguns... only smaller. The overall length of this miniscule pistol is only 4.9 inches with a height of 3.9 inches, just 0.75 of an inch wide and weighs a scant 9.97 ounces empty, without the magazine.
The P380 (KP3833) joins 12 other Kahr pistols in their P-line of polymer frame handguns and this little gun, like all the others it has a one-piece grip frame with integral textured grips and serrations on the front and backstraps for a very secure hold. The slide is machined from solid 416 stainless steel bar stock that is matte finished to reduce reflections. It has a 2.5-inch match-grade Lothar Walther polygonal rifled barrel and unlike a lot of small .380’s, has a locked-breech mechanism, allowing it to safely use the most powerful .380 ACP cartridges.
Similar to the other Kahr designs it has a DAO trigger and is striker fired with a passive striker block to prevent accidental discharges if the gun is dropped. There are no external safeties or magazine disconnect, so following the “KISS Principle” if you don’t want the P380 to go off, don’t pull the trigger. Cartridge capacity is 6 + 1 and the magazine is fashioned from stainless steel; two magazines are supplied with each pistol. The gun comes with a nice plastic carrying case, trigger lock, and owner’s manual.
I looked the pistol over for any flaws or defects and couldn’t find any. The slide has nice, big serrations that make retracting it easy and a set of black finished fixed sights with a white dot in front and white bar below the rear notch (Tritium night sights are also available). They are dovetailed into slide and either front or rear can be moved laterally to adjust windage. The trigger is wide with a smooth trigger face and has a pull similar to that on a DA revolver, but it is not a true DA as the slide has to be moved to the rear about 0.5 of an inch in order for the trigger to reset for the next pull. The only external controls are the slide release lever and magazine catch, both of which are located on the left side of the frame.
While the .380 ACP is arguably one of the more powerful pocket pistol cartridges it still ranks way below the 9mm, .40, the .45 ACP or even the .38 Special. What you have is a trade-off; you can have a smaller, flatter pistol, but in order to do so you have to be content with less powerful ammunition. This was most certainly the case back when full metal jacket (FMJ) or “ball” ammo was all that you could get for cartridges like the .380 ACP, but today the ammunition manufacturers offer a dazzling array of performance cartridges suitable for law enforcement, self-defense or even hunting. Now everyone is familiar with the big names like Federal, Remington and Winchester, but there are others out there that put together some outstanding products and one of those I became familiar with a couple of years ago was Extreme Shock.
Headed by Jeff Mullins who is president and CEO of the company, Extreme Shock USA is a small company, but is big in the field of special purpose ammunition. At present Extreme Shock catalogs cartridges that range from the .32 ACP all the way up top the .50 BMG with performance ammunition in such popular calibers such as .223, .308, 9mm, .40, .45 ACP and a number of others. Their website shows such offerings as the “Fang Face” round, a JHP handgun cartridge, the nose of which is formed into serrated “petals” and the core of the bullet formed from a Tungsten-NyTrilium composite material. Another handgun cartridge is known as the Air Freedom round (originally designed for use aboard aircraft) and is designed not to penetrate (under most circumstances) 1 1/2 wall board, making it excellent for home defense use.
When Jeff and I chatted, the round that he recommended to me for the new Kahr P380 was his EPR or Enhanced Penetration Rounds, which are now being made in .380 ACP. The 70-grain bullet in this cartridge again features a Tungsten-NyTrilium composite core that is jacketed with a polymer tip on the bullet nose. This bullet is designed to penetrate glass, wood or heavy skin and dense bone, and then rapidly expand inside the soft tissue of the target. However the bullet will fragment on any hard surface that would cause a lead bullet to ricochet. He believed that this was an excellent round for law enforcement use and said that it would be effective even in a cartridge such as the .380 ACP.
In the meantime I wanted to see how the Kahr would perform with some more conventional .380 ACP cartridges, so l went to my ammo locker and selected loads that I’d used over the years from such makers as Black Hills, CorBon, Federal, Remington and Winchester. All of the ammunition carried a jacketed hollow point (JHP) bullet of various configurations from 90 to 102 grains in weight, some of the bullets had a more pointed or rounded nose than others and some a sharp, truncated-cone shape. All were meant for law enforcement or self-defense use, and some were so-marked on their packaging.
My first order of business was to see what kind of velocities I was going to get out of the short Kahr P380 barrel. While the factory specs show a 2.5-inch barrel and inch or so of that is taken up in chamber space, so in reality I had about 1.5 inches of polygonal rifled barrel for the bullet to pass through before emerging at the muzzle.
To me it seemed a little point-less to shoot this little DAO “belly gun” from a bench rest as I was more interested in the practical accuracy of the pistol, so I elected to shoot off-hand, using a modified Weaver stance at 15 yards. It was raining the week I tested the Kahr pistol and it only seemed reasonable to do my test shooting in the rain too. A wet gun handles differently than a dry one and anyone who plans to use his/her gun for law enforcement or self-defense owes it to themselves to shoot in the rain once in awhile.
My best group of the day measured 2.43 inches with the Federal ammunition; ironically the Kahr P380 did not feed this round very well. As the jump from magazine to the chamber is a pretty straight proposition in this gun I did not anticipate feeding problems, but it just did not like the sharp nose of the Hydra-Shok bullet and did not feed the Black Hills load very well either even though the best group with this ammo was 2.53 inches. Overall best average for the Kahr P380 using all six test loads calculated out to 2.74 inches and that certainly is nothing to kick about. The gun functioned best with bullets of a more round profile and the two best performers were the Winchester Ranger load and the Extreme Shock EPR round.
I also did a combat shooting exercise utilizing a 30-round modified qualification course used by my agency. To carry the Kahr P380 I used a Bianchi #1 Pocket Holster. It is actually intended for a J-frame snubby revolver, but fit the Kahr just fine, holding it just below the top of the pocket...out of sight, but handy to reach. The shooting was done from distances of 3 to 15 yards, using strong and support hand only shooting, plus double and triple-taps and barricade use at 15 yards. The Winchester Ranger cartridges I had no trouble keeping all my shots in the 8, 9 and 10-ring of the Birchwood Casey “Dirty Bird” target.
|PERFORMANCE: KAHR P380 .380 ACP|
|Black Hills 90 JHP||822||3.16|
|CorBon 90 JHP +P||893||3.34|
|Extreme Shock EPR 70 Tungsten-NyTrilium JSP||1,027||2.73|
|Federal Personal Defense 90 Hydra-Shok||867||3.13|
|Remington Golden Saber 102 Brass JHP||813||3.44|
|Winchester Ranger 95 SXT-JHP||785||3.84|
|Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per sscond (fps) by Oehler 35P Chronograph, and accuracy in inches for three 5-shot groups from an off-hand position at 15 yards.|
I was also pleased with the performance of the Kahr P380; it functioned perfectly and handled well, even in less-than-idea conditions, which also raised my confidence level. I believe I can now truthfully recommend this new pocket pistol from Kahr for law enforcement and civilian self-defense use.
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