Born of innovation and bred for accuracy—all in a small .45 ACP package!

The Complete Book of Handguns 2011, p. 48 - 53
By Massad Ayoob

The Kahr TP45 features a trigger cocking DAO,"Browning-type" recoil rug, and a passive striker block.

I’ve followed Kahr Arms since the long-ago time when founder Justin Moon first appeared on the scene with a cool little 9mm pistol. One thing I’ve learned over those years is that while many companies respond to end-user feedback on a customer service call-in line, Kahr Arms tends to answer their customers from the production line, as well. Customers loved the original all-steel K9, but wanted something more rust-resistant than its blue finish. Kahr responded with a stainless version. Shooters loved that, too, but asked for something smaller. Kahr responded with the MK9. Customers loved that as well, but wanted both sizes to be lighter. Kahr responded with their hugely popular polymer frame series. Customers asked for .40s: they got ‘em. They asked for .45s, and they got them, too.

For those who wanted a Kahr pistol with its famously smooth and light double action-only mechanism, capable of accepting GI-capacity .45 ACP magazines, Kahr came up with the TP45.

Gun Details

I liked this gun when it first came out, not too long ago, and I still like it now. The grip-frame is lengthened front to back to allow for the .45 ACP cartridge, which of course if longer than the 9mm and the .40 S&W for which it was previously chambered. The result is a slightly longer trigger reach than on the smaller caliber Kahrs. That’s fine with this writer, because the little ones have always had too little reach for me, and I’ve wound up needing a straight-thumb hold to keep my thumb from blocking the trigger finger. That doesn’t happen for me on the TP45, and trigger reach is such that my index finger sits with its distal joint perfectly centered on the trigger. This is the “sweet spot” for leverage that double action revolver masters called “the power crease,” and it works just as sweetly with a double action semi-automatic such as this one. For those of us “Old Skool” shooters who still grasp fighting handguns with our thumbs curled down, the longer trigger reach can also keep the thumb in that position from blocking the trigger finger, as has happened to me on the smaller Kahrs.

Height - measured from the top edge of the slide to the bottom of the slightly protruding magazine floorplate - is roughly 5.5 inches. When grasped in my supposedly “average-size adult male hand,” about 0.75 of and inch of gun butt protrudes below the little finger of the firing hand. Those seven fat .45 ACP rounds stacked in the magazine have to go somewhere.

The grip shape compensates by being thin, and therefore lying flat to the body in concealment. In fact, the whole pistol is thin. The slide is well under an inch in diameter. This aids in concealment no matter how you carry it, and aids in comfort when you carry it inside the waistband. If you’re worried about butt length, just tilt that puppy’s holster a little bit more forward, so the rear corner of your pistol’s butt points up toward your shoulder blade.

Our test gun came with good, easy to see fixed night sights. They “shot a little left” for me at 25 yards. They also shot a bit low with the post-in-notch sight picture I was using, but I suspect that aiming with the three-dot sight picture instead would bring those hits up some.

The night sights were Trijicons. The white outline (important for indexing in daylight) around the Tritium module in the front was not as clear and bright as those on the rear sight, or the sights on a 9mm TP9 to which I compared the TP45. Nor was the front Tritium unit as bright a green in the dark as the two on the rear sight. Being a picky sort, I made a note to myself to get this fixed at the factory if I decided to keep the gun.

Like so many self-defense auto-pistols, the Kahr TP45 comes from the factory with two magazines. I specifically ordered a third with the gun. By the time the test pistol found its way to a shooting match that turned out to be a good move.

Safety Officer Anthony Wojtyla holds timer as handgun instructor Herman Gunter, III shoots the TP45 in the one-hand stage during an IDPA match.

Arrow shows spinning .45 brass from last shot, but author already has the TP45 in line for the next shot. Recoil is controllable despite light weight.

The Kahr TP45 proved accurate while handling all three of these .45 ACP loads.

Front night sight module on TP45, right, was a tad dim compared to the one on 9mm counterpart, left. Author has found this unusual for both Kahr and Trijicon.

Gold Dot 230-gr. shot pleasingly tight 25-yard group from TP45.

Remington 185-gr. JHP and TP45 Kahr: note particularly the "best 4" and "Best3" clusters within this 5-shot, 25-yard group.

Accuracy testing was done from 25-yard bench with Caldwell Matrix rest.

Shooting Impressions

On the Lyman trigger pull gauge, the weight of pull measured between 5.5 and 5.75 pounds. The pull was smooth and even, with no “stacking” or increase in weight toward the last portion of the trigger press. In short, it was the Kahr trigger that fanciers of DAO (double action only) shooting have come to know and love.

Recoil is mild for the caliber, weight, and power level. Kahr’s well-thought-out recoil spring design, contributes to that. With its polymer frame, the 4-inch barrel TP45 weighs only 23.2 ounces empty. (Actually, if you want to be picky, the barrel is 4.04 inches.) However, the shape of that polymer frame make it comfortable to shoot. This little gun certainly moves when the robust .45 ACP round goes off in its chamber, but it doesn’t hurt.

I’ve complained in the past that the slide stop lever is so sharp on some Kahrs that discomforts my thumb when I fire it with a straight-thumbs grasp. Some other Kahrs have had this area round off. This TP45 is in the middle: not really rounded, but not sharp enough to particularly bother me, either.

I tested TP45 off the cool new Caldwell Matrix rest from Battenfield Technologies, atop a concrete bench a measured 25 yards from the target frames. With me were three brands of ammo encompassing the three most popular bullet weights today in .45 ACP.

In the designation “TP45,” the “T” purportedly stands for “Target.” Given the way this pistol grouped with the loads it liked best, and taking its light weight into account, I don’t this is necessary too much hyperbole from Kahr’s marketing people.

Test Drive

It’s hard to imagine a better test bed for a combat pistol than a combat pistol match. My friend Herman Gunter, III in Live OK, Florida is an excellent defensive handgun instructor of long standing, and he is a big fan of Kahr pistols for concealed carry in light clothing weather, as are many of his Florida graduates. He took my test Kahr TP45 to an IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) match in Jacksonville in November of 2010. It being a double action .45, he could have entered it in any of the three autopistol divisions. Enhanced Service Pistol or Stock Service Pistol would have put him up against folks shooting low-recoil 9mm autos with eleven shots allowed in the gun, buy in Custom Defense Pistol division (CDP), he knew he would be up against other people shooting .45s and dealing with the same power level he was. Moreover, CDP would put him in a division where no more than nine rounds were allowed in the gun. That made for a more level playing field, and he entered CDP division.

Herman was up against some really good shooters, some using tricked out 1911s with almost telekinetically light custom single action triggers, and with more than a pound of extra recoil-dampening weight due to their all-steel construction. Not only that, but in a nine-shot stage guys with larger .45s could complete their shooting without reloading, but he would have to reload the Kahr, and in a 16-shot stage, the other guys would have to reload only once but he would have to go through two 7-round Kahr magazines and then reload a third to complete the job.

That kept him from winning on speed, but he and the Kahr both did great, from my reading of the match results. On the day he shot the Jacksonville match, I had to be in Phoenix, where I shot the South Mountain Showdown Regional IDPA Championship, where I had been registered to shoot in Stock Service Revolver class before the Kahr arrived for testing. (Won the SSR Championship with a Bob Lloyd-tuned 4-inch S&W 686 and .38 Special +P ammo, but that’s another story.) The next day, Herman emailed me about the Kahr TP45’s performance.

“We had a good IDPA match today,” he wrote. “The day began with brisk temperatures down to about 36. It warmed up nicely, and I think that everyone had a good time shooting. Ed (Sevetz) and Dan (Fox) did their usual good job.

“I shot the Kahr TP45. I shot in CDP. We had a number of long distance stages today. Accuracy on the TP45 is fine. I am probably slower with the pistol because of the long trigger pull, but when you pull the trigger you can put the shot where you wish. I fired about 20 shots (Speer Lawman 230-grain FMJ) last night to be sure where the pistol was going. I took one shot at Casper (a steel chest-plate size target) from about 70 yards or so, hit it, and the good sense to stop right then (since my wife Lieschen was watching). I fired about 60 more rounds through the TP45 today in the match and had no problems with the pistol. It is an easy pistol to manipulate. We had one stage that required one hand only shooting from 7 to 10 yards and that went well.”

The record shows that Herman Gunter, III was among the top five most accurate shooters overall that day, out of about 70 competitors, shooting a double action only, ultra-light weight .45 against folks with easy-trigger, heavy .45s, and easy trigger 9mm single action Enhanced Service Pistols. In fact, Herman was the single most accurate of the several .45 shooters in the Custom Defense Pistol division with the Kahr TP45.

I think that says a lot for Herman. And I think it also says a lot for the Kahr TP45.

Load 5-Shot Best3
Remington 185 JHP 2.10 0.55
Hornardy 200 XTP 2.75 1.55
Speer 230 Gold Dot 1.95 1.00
Bullet weight measured in grains, and accuracy in inches for groups fired from 25 yards.


Between all of us in the test group, we put a few hundred rounds through the test gun. Kahr is the rare handgun manufacturer that tells the user in the owner’s manual that it’s important to shoot a couple of hundred rounds through the gun to break it in before trusting it for anything important. I’ve had some Kahrs that did indeed malfunction a few times during the first 200, but sure enough, did achieve steady reliability by the time that round count was passed.

In this case, it wasn’t necessary. As noted above, there was one particular .45 load that didn’t want to chamber fully. Every other .45 ACP round we put through the TP45 ran flawlessly, including those used in the break-in. Why did that one load prove incompatible? Kahrs are well known for having tight chambers, probably one reason they’re so accurate for their size.

In any case, it’s foolhardy to trust a gun you haven’t fired previously with a couple hundred rounds of your carry ammo to establish 100% reliability. I’ve seen prestige brand pistols that would feed most ammo but choke on one particular type of load. We all have to test our stuff to make sure the ammo works in harmony with the gun before we use it for anything serious. I can’t really hold this against the maker of either the pistol or the ammo in this case. Sometimes, you find a good man and a woman who just aren’t compatible with one another. Sometimes, the exact same thing happens with a good type of gun and a good type of ammunition. No more, no less.

Final Notes

The Kahr, thanks to its ingenious offset feed ramp design, is a particularly slim .45. That makes it unusually well suited to concealed carry. Ditto the lightweight afforded by its polymer frame, making it 5.2 ounces lighter than the famously “carryable” Colt Commander that has been a favorite of serious pistol-packers since 1950.

Today we expect eight-plus one cartridge capacity in a single-stack .45 auto with a full-length grip-frame. But let’s not forget that for most of the epoch of the 1911 pistol, including that classic lightweight Colt Commander, standard magazine capacity was only seven rounds. Except for elite units, the US military generally mandated that troops carry the 1911 with no more than the seven rounds the magazine held, and with the chamber empty. Those seven-shot .45s, it was widely agreed, made them the best-armed fighters on the battlefield as far as handguns were concerned.

With seven-plus-one shots, those who are comfortable with traditional .45 ACP firepower should be pretty darn comfortable with a Kahr TP45 in terms of cartridge capacity.

Accuracy? With the hugely respected Gold Dot 230-grain bonded hollow point, the gun put five shots in under 2 inches at 25 yards. Petty hard to ask for more than that, I think. I don’t believe that was an anomaly, either. Fellow gun writer Wiley Clapp tested another TP45 for one of the NRA publications, and with Federal 230-grain hardball put five rounds under two inches at 25 yards, too. I benched a third specimen of the TP45 that also showed high accuracy potential.

The smooth action pleased me. The ease of carry pleased me. Its utter reliability with a couple of different street-proven .45 JHP loads pleased me. I think its attributes will please a lot of other pistol packers who feel more comfortable carrying a .45, too. Find out more by visiting or calling 508-795-3919.

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