AMERICAN COP, Jan./Feb. 2007, p.55 – 57, 64, 66
By Rob Garrett
The debate on what makes a great backup or off-duty carry gun has gone on for years. It has to be small but not too small. It should be lightweight but still controllable. It must be easy to shoot, allowing you to make solid hits at a reasonable distance. Finally, it should be in a caliber as large as the platform can accommodate. In my early days of working the roads, the choices were a small frame revolver such as a Chief’s Special or a .380 Walther such as the PPK/S. Well, times have changed and there’s a new king of the hill.
Kahr Firearms has been producing quality compact pistols for more than 12 years. Their first line of all stainless steel pistols set the market on fire due to their size and great shooting characteristics. In 1998, NYPD authorized the K9 9mm for officer carry. While the K9 is compact, about the size of a Walther PP, Kahr went a step further when they introduced the MK9 Micro. It’s slightly longer than 5″; with a height of only 4″; — just the right size for ankle or pocket carry. In the minds of many, the K9 and MK9 rendered most, if not all, .380 and .32 ACP autos obsolete. The only problem with both of these pistols was they were constructed of all stainless steel. For a small pistol, they weighed a lot!
Now In Polymer
After several years of research, Kahr developed the “P” series of pistols featuring a polymer frame. The P9 is the full-size version while the PM9 is the polymer frame version of the MK9. To get the stats out of the way, the PM9 has an overall length of 5.3″;, a height of 4″;, and the slide is just .90″; in width. More importantly, the PM9 weighs in at 14 ounces. It’s striker fired with a long DAO-type trigger and, with the exception of the slide release and magazine release, is devoid of any protrusions. It’s very close to the perfect 9mm pocket rocket. My experience with the stock Kahr pistols has been very positive over the years. I have found them reliable, comfortable and accurate.
However, the stock PM9, just like any stock production pistol, can be improved with the right touch. Enter Bill Laughridge and Cylinder & Slide. Bill is mostly known for his work on 1911s and Browning Hi Powers, however, he does undertake other projects from time to time. Several years ago, Bill took an MK9 and performed an astounding custom package. This past year, Bill decided to build a complete self-defense package based on the PM9 with the emphasis on “package.” The Cylinder & Slide crew has taken the PM9 to an entirely different level as only a custom shop can do.
Since this is a self-defense package, the majority of the work is focused toward maximum reliability — but, aesthetics haven’t been overlooked either. The bright polish on the slide cocking serrations, trigger and slide stop enhances the appearance of the pistol. As a final touch, the shop name and the famous mustache logo are etched on the slide. The result is a pistol that speaks to the good taste and seriousness of the owner.
On the range, the PM9 ran as good as it looked. I was able to run over 15 different 9mm loads though the pistol. These ranged from standard 124-grain ball to a variety of self-defense loads. Remington 115-grain Silver Tips, Speer Gold Dot 124-grain +P+, and Federal 124-grain +P+ Hydra Shok were all represented. While recoil was snappy with the hotter loads, I found it considerably easier to shoot than a Smith J-frame with +P ammo. I was happy to find the standard-velocity 124-grain loads still broke 1000 fps, ensuring reliable expansion and penetration. The XS sights are designed for speed, not precision, With a little attention, I had no trouble shooting quarter-size groups at 7 yards! After some 300 rounds, I experienced only one malfunction, a failure to feed a 147-grain Hydra Shok. This was early on when the gun was still tight and did not recur.
Custom Carry Package
You may have noticed this is a Custom Carry Package that includes more than just a pistol. Laughridge set out to put together a complete system enabling the owner to transport or wear an ensemble of protection. Laughridge chose a Kydex paddle holster and single magazine pouch from Center of Mass Tactical. The paddle is molded to the rear of the holster allowing it to ride close to the body and resist shifting. The magazine pouch uses a belt clip. Both have screws allowing the user to adjust the tension to the desired resistance.
When I was a rookie, a wise veteran told me if I carried a gun, I should carry a light. In the late ‘70s, there were few pocket lights good for more than a few feet. Today the game’s changed. The PM9 kit comes with a SureFire E1E Executive flashlight. The E1E is small enough to be carried in a jacket or pants pocket on a daily basis. Powered by a single CL123 lithium battery, the 3″; long light puts out 15 lumens of light. This is more than sufficient to identify a threat at 10 to 15 yards and is significantly distracting inside 7 yards. I’ve carried one daily for several years and find I use it on a regular basis for routine tasks. Like AmEx, I don’t leave home without it!
The final accessory included in the kit is the Kalista knife from Black-Hawk Blades. When I first saw this knife I was intrigued by both the design and sheath system. The blade design supports all styles of knife tactics to include standard grip, reverse grip and reverse edge methods. Made from ATS-34 stainless steel, the blade is hollow ground and coated with a durable Black Ti finish. The wide blade and textured G-10 handle make it suited for most utility functions. The heart of the Kalista is the Total Concealed Carry System (TSSC) sheath. The sheath body is made from a molded polymer and comes with options for neck, belt carry, inside the waistband carry and paddle carry and according to the literature, the TSSC supports more than 70 carry positions. I don’t know about 70, but I found the IWB carry to be very low profile and comfortable. The clip also allows the Kalista to be carried suspended inside a jacket pocket.
The Whole Package
The pistol, holster, magazine pouch, SureFire light and Kalista knife are shipped in a watertight hard case. Bill had to work overtime to fit the pistol and accessories in the case but he made it work. A decal with the Cylinder & Slide logo affixed to the top of the case can be peeled off if a lower profile is desired. It’s ideal for secure storage as well as trips to and from the range when the pistol is not being worn. It also meets FAA regulations for flying with firearms in checked luggage and comes with a padlock. As an added touch, Laughridge includes a lapel pin featuring his logo.
I know there are some who have an aversion to putting a custom pistol into a “plastic” holster. For them, or for those whose needs are other than a belt holster, the Pocket Concealment Holster from Milt Sparks Holsters fits the bill nicely. The PCH is designed to be carried in the front strong-side pocket and the shape and rough-out construction ensure the holster will stay put when drawing the pistol. The outer side of the holster is enlarged to cover the entire slide, breaking up the outline of the pistol, and a thin wire is sewn into the edge of the holster to allow the user to shape the outer edge for maximum concealment and comfort.
Another well-suited holster is the TSACIWB holster from Bulman Gun-leather. The TSAC is an IWB holster made from premium cowhide and molded to the specific pistol. The rough-out construction and reinforced mouth make it both attractive and functional. Unlike other belt clips, the TSAC uses a patented Talon Clip that attaches to the waistband of the pants, under the belt. Using this system, the PM9 virtually disappears, even under a T-shirt.
No Phone Trees
So we have a very slick. Very small 9mm auto, a convenient and practical holster, a great little light, and a super cool knife, all packaged in a James Bondish case! Cylinder & Slide will put the entire package together for you or Bill will be more than happy to perform the same custom work on a pistol you already own.
All in all, I haven’t found anything to give Bill any grief over. The pistol is sound and reliable, the work is up to the standards that Cylinder & Slide is known for, and the quality of the accessories matches the pistol. I guess the only issue is what Bill will want to sell a slightly used PM9 to a working cop with two kids in college for! I’m sure the negotiations will be interesting.
One last item is that, unlike some custom shops, Bill still takes calls from potential customers. In the time when we talk more to machines than people, it is a pleasure to be able to talk to someone like Bill, even if he’s having a bad day.
Internal modifications included:
• Re-crowning the muzzle to 11 degrees for improved accuracy
• Polishing the barrel feed ramp and throat for improved reliability
• Deburring any rough surfaces
• Radiusing and tensioning the extractor for positive extraction
• Internally working the trigger/sear surfaces to both smooth and lighten the trigger pull
External modifications consisted of:
• Performing a complete carry bevel on all edges
• Beveling the magazine well
• Polishing and radiusing the trigger to improve trigger control
• Texture the sides of the polymer grip for improved gripping surface
• Radius the edges and brightly polish the slide stop and slide stop shaft
• Brightly polishing the slide cocking serrations
• Glass beading the slide for reduced glare and improved appearance
• Installing XS 24/7 tritium sights with a standard size front dot and express rear sight