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Kahr CM9

Time goes by quickly. It has been many years now since Justin Moon debuted his first Kahr pistol, the K9. That first trim Kahr has spawned a long line of popular concealed carry sidearms.

The K9 quickly proved that it was no dog. My first one gave me 25-yard groups as tight as 1.88 inches for five shots with the most accurate 9mm ammunition, such as Federal’s 115-grain 9BP and Winchester’s Olin Super Match 147-grain subsonic, both jacketed hollow points. However, its all-steel construction made it seem heavy for its size, and a clamor arose in the marketplace for something lighter. Kahr Arms chose the polymer route rather than the aluminum-frame models.

Now offering dozens of variations in calibers .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP, Kahr has kept certain features consistent throughout its line. One is its signature slimness, made possible in large part by Justin Moon’s ingenious concept of a slightly offset feed ramp. As a result, they can advertise a 9mm pistol whose slide is only 0.9 inches wide, and a .45 ACP carry gun measuring only 1.01 inches in that dimension. To keep their pistols slim, flat, and oh-so-comfortable inside the waistband, Kahr does not offer anything with a double-stack magazine. Even their “Target” model is slim and compact enough for easy concealed carry.

Gun Details

A standout in the line-up, in my opinion, is the CM9, introduced in 2011. This is essentially an economy version of their outstanding little Kahr PM9, which set a new benchmark for “slim-nines,” or super-slim 9mm carry pistols.

The CM9 and the PM9 are identically small in height and length. The CM9 weighs 14 ounces, and its six-round magazine, another 1.9 ounces. Weight specifications are exactly the same for the PM9. The CM9 measures 0.9 inches across its slide; so does the PM9. Each has the same smooth, easy double-action-only trigger pull, in the low 6-pound range, for every shot.

What’s different? The slide is sculpted a bit differently. The front sight of the CM9 is fixed in place, not in a dovetail like the PM9’s. The lettering on the slide appears more Spartan, more crudely stamped. Night sights are not listed as a factory option on the CM9, though they are on the PM9.

Oh, and one more thing. Kahr lists its manufacturer suggested retail price for the CM9 as $517. They list the price for the PM9 as $785, and $908 with the optional night sights.

When the CM9 first came out in 2011, it was $221 cheaper than its predecessor, the PM9. Today, at the prices just listed here, the value advantage of the CM9 is even more stark: it’s now $268 less than the PM9.

Shooting Impressions

It shot pretty much where it looked, right out of the box—something I don’t get much of the time even with far more expensive guns, believe me. I don’t have the notes in front of me as I write this, unfortunately, but I do remember that it put five rounds of Black Hills 124-grain 9mm jacketed hollow point into less than 2 inches at 25 yards, and an absolutely magnificent “best three shots” cluster at the same distance with 115-grain Mag-Tech full metal jacket.

Despite the light weight, recoil is quite controllable, and not at all unpleasant. The only thing you might find unpleasant would the sharp rear corners of the slide stop, both on top and on bottom, and even that depends how you hold the pistol. If you shoot left-handed, it shouldn’t be a problem. If you hold it with a primary right-hand grasp, those little corners can bite the thumb, if you let that part of the hand make contact with that part of the pistol. Curling the thumb down, revolver-style, will certainly keep the thumb away from the sharp corners of the slide stop/slide release lever, but now you may find that your thumb blocks the completion of the index finger’s trigger stroke. I’ve learned to shoot Kahrs with a high thumbs grasp to prevent either problem from occurring.

Kahr was the first gun company to come out of the closet and recommend a 200-round break in before using their pistol for anything serious. Some folks, usually found on the Internet or “around the cracker barrel” at the gun shop, have suggested that this is an admission on Kahr’s part of poor quality control.
I beg to differ.

For years before Kahr pistols existed, this writer made the same recommendation for any new pistol, and still does. Hilton Yam, the master tactical gunsmith who runs 10-8 Performance, reportedly recommends a 1,000-round break-in for any new service or self-defense pistol. It simply makes good sense. It’s analogous to those slow first few hundred miles every automobile manufacturer suggests we put on one of their new cars before putting pedal to the metal at Autobahn speed.

The CM9 I tested went its first 200 rounds without a single malfunction. The same was true of its next 200. And its next…

One price you pay for that wafer-slimness of the CM9 is that its magazine is thin, too—a mere six in the single magazine that comes with it, and a seventh in the firing chamber. Kahr makes a seven-rounder with finger extension, and it would be sensible to carry one as a spare… or maybe two.

Concealed Carry

That benevolent slimness, plus its compact dimensions, make it easy to conceal the CM9. A belly band under a tucked in shirt, or a “tuckable” holster intended to be carried in similar places, is perfect for one of these baby 9mms. The two little sharp corners on the slide stop that aggravate my thumb in some shooting grasps don’t seem to touch the body, even when next to bare skin in a belly band.

The pocket is another favorite hiding place for the CM9 and its more pricey sister gun, the PM9. A word of caution on that, though—I’d suggest the right pocket only. Those of us who’ve tried it in the left side pocket have found that if we bump into anything on that side, it seems to activate the magazine release button and pop the magazine. Until the magazine is pushed back in to full lock, that turns the Kahr into a single shot pistol in your left side pocket, instead of a seven-round semi-automatic. A friend of mine is a very gun-savvy attorney in the American Southwest. He’s left-handed.

He loves his baby Kahr… when it is holstered inside his waistband. He has tried it with the pocket carry he prefers in hot weather, and ended up with a prematurely released magazine so many times, he regretfully gave up the practice of carrying the Kahr there. He switched to a Ruger LCP for pocket carry on his left side. The LCP is a fine little gun, to be sure, but its .380 ACP chambering is a bit on the light side, by both my friend’s standard and my own. I’d like to see Kahr put in a stronger magazine release spring to address this issue, or perhaps mold the frame with a protective build-up around the magazine release button. That isn’t just for the southpaws among us; it would also benefit those of us righties who might like to carry a subcompact Kahr in the left trouser pocket to put a backup gun within reach of our non-dominant hand.

Carried in an ankle holster on the left leg, the CM9 seems to present no problem. One issue with ankle rigs is that they are inches above the ground, where dust is kicked up with almost every step when outdoors, and the handguns in them quickly become cov-ered with a fine layer of grit. Most small autos are too finely fitted to survive that without daily cleaning, or running the risk of them malfunctioning when you most desperately need them to work.

This does not seem to be true of the Kahr. For some time after they first came out, I carried the larger, heavier, all-stainless steel K9 in an Alessi ankle holster, and found that it survived dirt and ran fine from that carry, just like the Glock and the Kel-Tec before it.

The dimensions appear to be the same on the CM9, and I would expect it to survive ankle carry and stay functional just as its big brother did. It will hide better and ride more comfortably, too, being so distinctly smaller and lighter.

Ultimate Backup

If seven rounds of 9mm seem a little light in the firepower department, remember that many who cherish these guns don’t always use them for EDC (everyday carry). For some, it’s a hideout backup gun to a 9mm with higher cartridge capacity, or to a more powerful handgun. In Florida, I met a Fish & Wildlife officer who was ambushed by a man with a 1911 .45 ACP. Both of the officer’s upper limbs were severely injured in the initial barrage. He sprinted to cover, where he found his injured hand couldn’t get his duty Glock out of its security holster. He was, however, able to retrieve his concealed backup, a little Kahr. Between one functioning hand at the end of an injured arm, and one wounded hand at the end of a functional arm, he was able to get into position to engage the gunman, who was searching for him. Some survival instinct perhaps taught the punk that he had lost the advantage and now was in deadly danger; in any case, he fled, was captured later and now dwells behind bars. The courageous officer, grateful that he had the Kahr for backup, is now recovered and back on duty.

Another friend is a petite female who works in the medical profession, in a job environment where it’s against workplace rules—but not against the law—for her to carry. After a nurse was brutally raped at the hospital where she worked, she chose to carry. On her own time, she wears a concealed high-capacity 9mm, usually either a Springfield Armory XDM Compact or a Glock 19. Too small to conceal guns of that size within the hospital dress code, she went with a subcompact Kahr 9mm in a belly band holster under her scrubs. It hasn’t been noticed yet.

Whether or not a CM9 fits your idea of a primary concealed carry handgun, you may well find that on special occasions with special “dress codes,” this flat little micro-9mm nonetheless has a worthwhile place in what some call “the carry rotation.”

Other Kahrs

Nor is the CM9 format your only choice in the Kahr catalog. Some shooters just don’t gain confidence from 9mm pistols. One friend of mine is an average-size guy who likes to be able to conceal a large-bore handgun without having to dress like a slob. His choice is the compact Kahr in .45 ACP. He doesn’t want to have to remember to flick off a safety, or to decock after firing, and feels double-action-only is a safer design all around. He shoots his compact Kahr .45 in local IDPA matches, despite the fact that he has fewer cartridges than the 8-round magazines his competitors are using in their 1911s. His feeling is that he’s there to hone his skills, not to win a trophy, anyway; the extra reloads, in his view, give the bonus of extra practice.

I also know a delicate lady whose favorite carry gun is a Kahr P9, the still compact “standard size” polymer frame 9mm in the Kahr catalog. The day she was confronted by a rattlesnake, she found the P9’s presence comforting. (The rattler, apparently, did not, and quickly slithered from the scene, leaving her grateful that she didn’t have to kill it.) Perspective In a moment, I’m going to compare the Kahr with a handgun that not at all resembles it, and if you think I’ve lost my mind, I’ll ask you to bear with me. There’s method to the madness.

That gun is the Smith & Wesson .357 Mag Highway Patrolman, a.k.a. Model 28. Yes, it’s a comparatively humongous, heavy N-frame revolver, not the least bit like a lightweight ultra-modern pocket size 9mm autopistol in the CM9 cate-gory. However, the Highway Patrolman stands as a landmark in the industry for something that very much brings the
Kahr CM9 to mind.

When Smith & Wesson announced the Highway Patrolman in 1954, they did something that hadn’t been done in the
handgun industry before. They took a very fancy, pricey, prestigious gun and “stripped it down” to a “plain jane” version, but left its function and size exactly the same. The Model 28 Highway Patrolman was, structurally and internally, the top-of-the-line .357 Mag of 1935, also known as the Model 27, but with only two of the many barrel length options of the 27. Where the fancy gun had a checkered topstrap and sight rib, the Highway Patrolman was plain and smooth. The 27 had S&W’s fabulous Bright Blue finish, and the 28 was an ugly, almost unpolished flat gray. But it was as smooth in its action, and as accurate in its shooting, and as reliable in its performance as the 27, and it cost $75 at a time when the fancy one cost $110.

We see this legacy very much in the CM9 pistol from Kahr. It is, essentially, the same gun as the PM9. It is less fancy in
its sights and slide sculpting. But it will shoot just as accurately and just as reliably, and has the exact same famously smooth trigger pull. They weigh the same, and fit the same “size footprint.” And the CM9 costs $268 less than the PM9.

And that, my friends, is why I have to endorse the CM9 pistol as perhaps the best value in the Kahr Arms line today, and one of the best values anywhere in a concealable handgun. For more information, call 508-795-3919 or visit