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Kahr Arms CW40 .40 S&W

More economical, but still completely reliable with dead-on accuracy!

Combat Handguns, March 2007, p. 26 – 30
By William Bell

New from Kahr Arms is the CW40 a light, compact 6+1 capacity pistol in .40 S&W that goes for about 20% less than the price of most of Kahr’s other handguns.

Putting the CW40 through its paces on the 25 yard indoor range. We thought the CW40 handled better than Kahr’s CW9 9mm.

Last year the big news at Kahr Arms was the CW9, a compact, polymer frame pistol in 9mm with just enough cost-saving features to bring down the price about 20% below the other Kahr mid-size 9s. For 2006, Kahr has taken the next step and introduced the CW40, which obviously is a very similar pistol chambered for the .40 cartridge. The philosophy behind the CW Series is getting a bigger piece of the market share, by offering a well-built handgun with the Kahr reputation, but at a price that’s more affordable.

So, just how do you manage that? Well, without really sacrificing performance, you replace a match polygonal rifled barrel with a conventional land and groove riffled barrel, next produce a slide that requires fewer machining operations and has simple engraved marking on the side, then you pin the front sight in place instead of fitting it in a dovetail cut. A more expensive machined slide stop lever is replaced with a metal-injection-molded slide stop. Finally, you pack the gun with only one magazine instead of two. Presto, what would have cost you $741 for a K4043 or $697 for a TP4043 now has a price of only $533, saving the buyer from $208 to $164 on his/her purchase. I think I could buy my own spare $40 magazine in order to save those kinda bucks!

Of course, this was music to my ears, I’ve always championed the budget class firearms that the average Joe or Josephine can use to protect their families, or that the small town cop or rural deputy can afford who has to buy his/her own handguns and equipment. But, I won’t compromise reliability and practical accuracy for the sake of a lower price tag. That’s why I’m so impressed with this new offering from Kahr. You are getting an excellent gun for self-defense, back-up or off-duty use, yet it has a moderate suggested retail price.

Gun Details

When I received my test Kahr CW40 it was just what I expected, a rugged looking but handsome pistol with no exterior blemishes or machine marks. The matte finish stainless steel slide contrasts nicely with the matte black polymer frame. Other stainless parts include the trigger and magazine. The entire package is as compact as many .380 ACP pistols, with an overall length of 6.36 inches, a height of 4.62 inches, a trim 0.94 of an inches wide and an empty weight of scant 16.8 ounces. That makes the CW40 just one ounce heavier and only slightly larger than its older 9mm sibling the CW9. Remember, this is a locked breech handgun firing a cartridge that generates tremendous chamber pressures, yet still has a capacity of 6 + 1 rounds.

I like the fact that the muzzle to make holstering the weapon much easier. There are other beveled surfaces and rounded edges that enhance the concealability of this pistol. The serrations on the rear of the slide provide a positive grasping surface for cycling the action, plus the fixed front and rear sights are robust and easy to see. The rear sight is mounted in a dovetail and can be drifted to one side or the other for windage adjustment. It has a big while square below the rear notch, and the front post inclines forward slightly and has a while dot.

Each new CW40 comes in a plastic carrying case, with a trigger lock and a single magazine.

Leather came from the Hunter Company, their Pro-Hide line, the Model 5200 holster and 5801 belt.

Ammo consisted of service/defense loads from CorBon, Federal, Speer, Triton, and Winchester.

To get a better grip on the pistol, the author installed this Qwik Grip grip sleeve. The rubber sleeve added a little needed thickness.

The front sight is pinned instead of dovetailed to the slide, and the slide requires less machining.

The shooting evaluation of the Kahr CW40 was done at indoor facility. Typical 5-shot groups were fired from an impromptu rest at 15 yards.

The Kahr is a locked-breech design with a “Browning-type” recoil lug that lowers the barrel as the slide moves to the rear. This movement frees the squared breech-end of the barrel that acts as the locking mechanism from ejection port, allowing the action to cycle. This is a striker-fired weapon with a passive firing pin block safety and there are no external or magazine safeties, so if you don’t want it to go “bang,” then don’t pull the DAO trigger. The trigger is factory set for a 7 to 9-pound pull and it will actually assist you with getting the “surprise” break a good marksman always wants during deliberate firing. I can never quite tell just when, during that relatively long pull, the sear is going to release the striker. The smooth-faced trigger is also nice and wide, which gives you the impression of a lighter trigger pull weight. While called DAO, the trigger cannot be pulled a second time, if you have a dud round, the slide must be retracted at least half an inch to reset the striker. The magazine release button is right where most Americans like it, at the junction where the triggerguard meets the grip frame on the right side. It is small but perfectly positioned, especially if you are right handed, and magazines generally fall free when you fully depress the catch. The magazines are well built with a stainless steel tube mated to a polymer base and follower. Takedown of the CW40 is relatively simple, so I will direct your attention to the owner’s manual and not waste your time and mine detailing the disassembly.

I thought the perfect mate to my economy Kahr might just be some economy leather and the company that instantly came to mine was the Hunter Company. These folks have been around almost as long as I have, and they catalog a fairly recent line of holsters and accessories under the Pro-Hide label. These holsters, belts and magazine pouches offer performance and quality comparable to any leather gear produced by any of the major manufactures in the USA. I happened to have on hand a Model 5200 Open Top holster that fits the Kahr CW40 perfectly. It features a reinforced open top, which allows effortless re-holstering, and has a triggerguard tension screw. Tightening the screw compresses a thick rubber washer that bears on the bottom of the triggerguard and when coupled with the hand-bonded holster, provides a good level or retention for a holster of this design. It comes in a russet brown color and is attractive, besides being practical. I mated the holster with a Hunter Model 5801 Pro-Hide 1-1/2-inch stitched leather belt and had a fantastic moderately priced combo for packing my new Kahr.

Range Time

The next consideration was .40 caliber ammunition, so I scrounged through my locker to come up with some loads I felt would be compatible to the compact, lightweight CW40. From CorBon I selected a 135-grain JHP load as I felt the lighter weight bullet might make this lightweight handgun easier to shoot. For that same reason I also picked a 135-grain JHP cartridge from Federal’s Personal Protection line. The next two loads carried a 165-grain JHP bullet, the first was Speer’s Gold Dot brand of ammo and I also had some vintage Triton Hi-Vel, which always proved very accurate in the guns I’ve used it in. Lastly, I brought along some Winchester Ranger cartridges that feature the SXT bullet, this one in the 180-grain weight.

At an indoor shooting facility I sent a range supplied target down to the 15-yard line and did some informal shooting just to see where the sights were on the CW40 with the different loads I’d brought. Then I did a little rapid-fire shooting with some frangible ammo I’d brought along just to help break-in this little autopistol. I found that the slender grip frame with the checkered pattern on the front and backstraps were not especially conductive to good shooting on my part. Fortunately, I had a set of rubber Qwik Grips in my shooting bag that slid onto the one-piece grip frame. The set I had were originally used on a .380 self-loader and they worked just great on the Kahr. They added just that little bit of thickness I needed without taking away from the concealability of the pistol.

Now it was time to do some accuracy testing. I put 4 self-adhesive Birchwood Casey Shoot-N-C targets on the cardboard target backing supplied by the range. My goal was to shoot four 5-shot groups from a kneeling position using my shooting bag as a rest. Not the optimal situation for accuracy, but eminently practical. I already knew the sights were pretty well regulated, so I took aim on the first target and started back on the trigger. Best group of the day went to the Winchester Ranger with what looked like only 3 holes, which I measured at 1.32 inches with my dial caliper. Turns out second best group was a 1.53-inch cluster using the Triton ammo, not totally unexpected. I got a 1.77-inch group using Speer Gold Dot hollow points, but the little Kahr just did not do as well with the CorBon and Federal ammo, which I find very unusual as I couldn’t coax a sub 2-inch group using either load and most ran more than 3 inches.

Next, I affixed a Birchwood Casey B-27 type Shoot-N-C human silhouette target to the cardboard target holder. I loaded up the CW40 magazine and a couple of spares Kahr sent me with 6 rounds each, and proceeded to shoot my agency combat qualification course. Shooting commences at 3 yards with strong and weak hand only shooting; a magazine change being required before the handgun is switched from one hand to the other, all in 25 seconds. The shooter then backs up to 7 yards and fires a series of double-taps for a total of 6 rounds with 2 seconds to fire each string. Also from 7 yards there is a body armor drill with 2 shots to center mass and 1 shot to the head in 4 seconds, this being done twice. Now the shooter moves back to the 15-yard barricade and has 20 seconds to fire 2 shots left-side barricade, 2 shots right-side barricade and 2 shots kneeling left or right side barricade depending on which side the shooter prefers. I wasn’t using an official agency target, but I could tell that I would have easily scored the maximum of 150 points. In fact, when I added up the actual points using the scoring rings, I got 296/300 using the Winchester cartridges. There were no malfunctions and the gun was easy to get back on target. I was surprised that the 180-grain bullet load was the most pleasant of all to shoot.

The owner of the range had one of the Kahr CW9 pistols in his inventory and he was curious to shoot the CW40 in order to compare the two handguns. I handed the gun to him, along with some loaded magazines. I had offered the opinion that of the many similar 9mm and .40 caliber pistols I’d shot over the years, the 9mm usually seemed to have sharper recoil/muzzle flip. He agreed that the CW9 wasn’t as easy a gun to shoot as the CW40, and both of us were very impressed with the performance of the CW40. I feel the urge to get out the checkbook as I don’t think Kahr is going to get this little powerhouse back!

Performance: KAHR CW40 .40 S&W
Load Velocity Accuracy
CorBon 135 JHP 1273 3.38
Federal 135 HSHP 1148 3.89
Speer 165 GDHP 1137 2.66
Triton 165 JHP 1076 2.72
Winchester 180 SXT 943 2.06
Bullet weight measured in grains, velocity in feet per second (fps) by Oehler 35P chronogragh, and accuracy in inches for four 5-shot groups from a benchrest at 45 feet.