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Kahr’s Super-Slim Single-Stacks: CT40 and CT45 (REVIEW)

Kahr’s latest line of pistols is something to see. The company’s taken all of the features of its premium pistols and shaved off the extras to leave behind an exceptionally functional pistol that sells for much less. It’s producing guns that can compete with anything on the market, and at a price point that spanks most of their competition. The CT45 and CT40 should be serious contenders for anyone looking for a concealed carry gun.

Let me back up a bit. If I were to describe my brand loyalties, Kahr wouldn’t make the list. I’ve got friends who will only carry Kahrs, but I’ve never cottoned to the brand. One of my main hangups has to do with the needed break-in period. Some of Kahr’s pistols need to be fired, a lot, in order to work reliably every single time you pull the trigger. I’ve shot, and reviewed, a number of Kahr pistols. While I like the guns, I’ve never warmed to the Kahr trend, at least not until now.  This new platform has addressed all of my concerns.

Kahr CT 40

The only texture on the gun itself is provided by the slide’s serrations, and they’re only at the rear.

The basic appeal of the CT40 and CT45 will be the delicate blend between the available firepower and the concealability. Both of these pistols are bigger than most compact concealed carry guns, yet they’re very thin, which makes them easier to conceal. What they give up in overall length (and length of grips), they make up for in width. And they get even more out of that width with the .40 S&W and .45 ACP.

After the consideration of form and function, the price is really going to shine. The CT line is listing for $449, which would put the retail price closer to $400.  We’ll talk more about that later. This is one of the biggest appeals for me personally, as I always judge guns based on a complex metric that pits performance against price. Kahr offers some design elements that are truly superb, and worth the extra money, but they often go unnoticed by the end consumer, which makes buyers less likely to pony up for the brand. Now Kahr’s taken that same design and brought it to market at a much lower price, which means the word is going to spread (which should raise awareness of the great design, which will bring value to the whole brand…). You see where this is going. The CT line is going to sell itself, and it will sell many of the other Kahr guns, too.

Kahr CT45

The mag release button is easy to access on both the CT40 and CT45.

What makes the Kahr different?

So what makes a Kahr different? The first is the action. Kahr is double-action only (DAO). The trigger cocks the hammer each time the trigger is pulled. Much of the competition uses a single-action striker-fired mode that leaves the tension on all of the time. I know many shooters who will say “I’d never carry a 1911 because I don’t trust cocked-and-locked.” Yet they’ll carry a polymer-framed pistol, one with no manual safety, that employs a similar mechanism. Kahr is a DAO, but you’d never know it when you pull the trigger. It has a discernible take up, but doesn’t stack at all. You pull the trigger back, and it pops at the same point every time. After a few shots, you can begin to anticipate the break. And it happens right at five pounds of pull.

That’s the big one. The rest of the design features may seem more typical, but they’re all done well. The feed ramps on the CT line are polished and sufficiently long. The guns will eat anything you feed them. We even had some really obnoxious flat-nosed .45 ACP that would lock back all of my 1911s, but not the CT45. That makes practicing with the gun much easier. And the giant extractor on the guns flip out brass reliably and consistently.

Kahr CT45

The polished feed ramps are built into the barrel.This gun will eat anything.

Both of these are big improvements over some of the other Kahr pistols I’ve shot, the ones that required break-in periods. I don’t believe a gun should have a break-in period, at least no one meant for concealed carry. How would you know when it is broken in? What do you carry while you’re waiting for it to break in? If the gun has an advertised break-in period of 200 rounds, you have to add that to the initial cost of the gun. With so many companies offering pistols that work, right out of the box, it just seems dubious to me.

Not that it doesn’t have its benefits. A 200-round break-in means you’ll learn your way around all kinds of jams. Knowing that you can clear misfeeds and stovepipes and failures of all sorts is imperative. And after 200 rounds, you should be broken-in, too. So maybe every gun should come with a mandatory 200-round shooter-education period. But I still want it to work, out of the box. That seems like a small thing to expect. And the good news is that both of these Kahrs are rock stars. Not only did we not have any failures, we had no performance related issues at all. Not a single one in either the CT45 or the CT40.

Kahr CT 40

The CT 40 will hold seven rounds of .40 S&W.

Carrying the CT45 and CT40

These are both single-stack guns designed for concealed carry. With the longer barrels, there is an increase in accuracy potential and muzzle energy. The single-stack design makes the guns easier to carry, but it sacrifices rounds. Both hold just seven rounds. While that isn’t enough, you have to consider the size advantage. I’m a big guy. At 6’4″ and 240 pounds, I can conceal a lot around my waist, especially if I’m dressing baggy. Yet I know some rail-thin dudes (and women, too) who like to show off how thin they are. They wear flat-front slacks and tuck in their shirts. They can’t conceal a 1911 in appendix carry. But these guns are more flexible. The only difficulty is the length of the CT45’s grip.

All of the edges of the the CT line have been knocked back. The front of the slides are beveled, which helps when inserting the pistols into stiff Kydex holsters.  The only real texture comes from the rear slide serrations. Even the grip has rough texture on the front strap and the back, but a smoother pebbled texture on the wide flats. The combinations offer just enough texture to make carrying the gun as easy as shooting it. It is a compromise between the necessities of both, and an effective compromise, at that.

Kahr CT 40

When working from the holster with the CT 40, I consistently hit left.

Shooting

I’ve already talked about reliability. The guns worked great. We’ll move past that though to some other obvious considerations. The .40 S&W is punchy. The round is often packaged in 9mm-sized guns that kick like small mules. I didn’t believe this myself until I completed a training class and ran through about 700 rounds of .40 in six hours. My hand was a bit numb. I can do that with 9mm and not feel it. Same for the .45. But the .40 has a way of beating up my hands. The Kahr CT40 is no different. Its thin design makes recoil feel a bit sharp. Yet, in a defensive handgun use, I’d rather have the terminal ballistics of the .40. So you have to make that decision yourself.

As both of these guns draw cleanly, and present naturally, they’re easy to use. I can draw either from concealment and get a round on target in just over 1.7 seconds. The CT line is easy to point shoot. The wide, flat slide catches the light and shows up well on a basic silhouette-sized target.

Kahr CT 40

I had better results with the CT 40 than I did with the CT 45. Even from the holster, this gun is easy to get on target.

If you want to put a round on the bulls-eye, you can. The sight system is intuitive. The rear sight, which is drift adjustable, has a black pyramid shape with a white line. That center line matches a white dot front sight. Though the front sight is pinned, the back sight can be adjusted. It is dovetailed in and held with friction.

Most of the shooting we did with these guns was on steel. I like to do two drills with concealed carry pistols. On steel targets, I like to shoot 12-inch plates at varying distances. I draw from concealment and run through five plates (and I prefer to give each plate two hits, which is harder with only one seven-round magazine). Both of these guns performed well enough. The available ammunition allowed me to miss twice, which isn’t uncommon when I’m flying through the sequence.

The other drill I like is single shots, on paper, from the holster. I holster the gun, and with the help of a shot timer, draw and fire one shot from seven yards. I then reholster. Rinse, repeat. This drill lets me know exactly how close to point of aim I’m getting, as I always try to hit the bulls-eye. Still, the emphasis isn’t on accuracy, exactly, but a combination of speed and accuracy that I’d call practical accuracy. And the Kahr’s shine. Several of my shots were pulling left, typical for me, but I was able to adjust and bring them back to center.

Kahr CT 40

As the CT line is really flat, an adaptable holster (like this Sticky Holster) comes in handy.

In all, we ran through close to 1,000 rounds with both of these guns. I used a random mix of Hornady’s critical defense and critical duty and Winchester’s White box .40 S&W. I had a slew of .45 ACP reloads, both lead round-nosed and flat-nosed, that worked well. There didn’t seem to be much difference in point of impact between any of the various rounds, though I would say that Hornady’s Critical Duty, as advertised, is hot.

 

The difference in the various models

If you’re looking into the Kahr line, you can easily get confused. For starters, Kahr names guns with a typical gun nomenclature that is easy to follow, but not terribly descriptive. The CT, TP, PW…. The easy fix is to find the two variations you might want to juxtapose and see how they compare. The TP line is Kahr’s premium polymer pistol equivalent of the CT lineup. Here are the basic features.

The CT45

Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7+1
Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech;
“Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block;
no magazine disconnect
Barrel: 4.04″, conventional rifling; 1 – 16.38 right-hand twist
Length O/A: 6.57″
Height: 5.25″
Slide Width: 1.01″
Weight: Pistol 23.7 ounces, Magazine 2.4 ounces
Grips: Textured polymer
Sights: Drift adjustable white bar-dot combat rear sight
Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide
Magazine: 1 – 7 rd Stainless

The Tp45

Caliber: .45 ACP
Capacity: 7+1
Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech;
“Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block;
no magazine disconnect
Barrel: 4.04″, polygonal rifling, 1 – 16.38 right-hand twist
Length O/A: 6.57″
Height: 5.25″
Slide Width: 1.01″
Weight: Pistol 20.8 oz., Magazine 2.4 oz.
Grips: Textured polymer
Sights: Drift adjustable, white bar-dot combat sights
Finish: Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide
Magazines: 3 – 7 rd, Stainless

The differences are easy enough to tease out. The CT line has traditional rifling. The TP has polygonal rifling. Which one is better? The price would imply the polygonal is better, but it is a subject of considerable debate.

Kahr CT45

The CT 45 is big enough to hold and shoot, yet small enough to hide.

The slide has more milling on the TP line, which shaves off a bit of weight. The front sight on the TP is adjustable; the CT’s rear sight is drift adjustable, but not the front.  Other than that, it comes down to magazines. The CT line only ships with one. The TP comes with three.

The CT has an MSRP of $449. The TP lists at $697. All told, that isn’t a bad deal either. I can’t imagine owning a pistol with only one magazine. That just seems a bit foolhardy. Extra mags sell for $44, so two more mags would bring the CT45 price up to somewhere in the $550 range after applicable taxes. I can carry the extra two ounces easily enough. I’m not convinced polygonal rifling makes that much of a difference, at least not enough to justify the extra cost. If this were a target gun, I’d want adjustable sights. The CT line just seems to be a much better value for me.

In the end, I have to hand it to Kahr. This new line of guns is going to revolutionize the way people approach the brand. They should sell well. They will perform even better.

Kahr CT 40

The CT40 has the same reliable feed ramp and external extractor.

Kahr CT 40

Line up the white parts, and you should be good to go.

Kahr CT 40

The slide drop is the hardest part to work. It is narrow, to avoid snags. I suggest using the whole slide.

Kahr CT 40

The CT40 and CT45 both have large extractors that we couldn’t get to fail.

Kahr CT 40

The lines on the CT series are consistent with Kahr’s streamlined concealed carry philosophy.

Kahr CT 40

The shorter grip on the CT40 still allows for a full grip on the gun.

The front sight on the CT 40 is tall enough to be useful for well aimed shots.

The front sight on the CT 40 is tall enough to be useful for well aimed shots.

Kahr CT 40

The frames on the CT line are deceptively simple. Though they look thin, the gun is rock solid.

Kahr CT 40

The CT line is incredibly easy to take apart, and there are no loose pieces to lose.

Kahr CT45

The front of the pistols has been beveled, which is a nice touch. It helps with holstering in rigid Kydex.

Kahr CT45

The flat-topped slides help with point shooting. The steel catches the light, making the gun easy to align.

Kahr CT45

The back of the grip is really aggressive. The ridges are crisp and deep.

Kahr CT45

In order to accommodate the ammo, the grip has to be a bit longer on the .45.

Kahr CT45

The triggers on the Kahrs are one of the most notable features. They may be the best in this class of gun. This one breaks just north of 5 pounds. Not bad for DAO.

Kahr CT45

As this is a gun meant for concealed carry, I ran it from the holster. Results from seven yards were solid.