https://www.kahr.com/P380The best gun to have in a gunfight is the one you chose to take with you that day. This is why small pistols are so popular. They are light and pocketable, so people actually carry them. But small pistols are also something of a conundrum. Smaller and lighter is better for concealed carry, but small guns means small parts, and small parts break easier, and they can be cantankerous when it comes to accuracy and reliability. There is no perfect small pistol, but after beating up one of the worst of the bunch recently, we thought it probably a good idea to review one of the best of the bunch, the Kahr P380, MSRP $649. The gun is somewhat ammunition sensitive, as most small guns are, but the P380 is built to the standards of a full size pistol, and performs as such. Made in Worcester, MA, the Kahr small pistols are chosen by more law enforcement and security personnel than any other brand of pistol, and the P380 is the smallest of the bunch. If you were scared away from small pistols by our Diamondback review, don’t be afraid. Legions of Kahr owners and fans unanimously say that Kahr pistols can’t be beat. There are some details you need to know though, so read on.
First of all, it is important to understand that Kahr is the owner of 6 firearm patents, and they have won infringement cases against them, which means they are real patents. The reliability of the Kahr is unique because of these patents. They have found an internal system that is able to buffer the recoil of full caliber rounds without beating up the internals of the gun, and it works . Other small pistols have developed good reputations these days, but nobody would tell you to take them to the range every weekend for plinking practice. The Kahr guns are built to the same tolerances of full size pistols. They have stainless rails molded into the polymer frame, and they come with a match grade Lothar Walther barrel. All of the springs are made by Wolff Gunsprings. The Kahr guns have a last round hold open feature (rare in small guns) and the slide release is meant to be stiffer when there is an empty mag in the gun. It does, however, become easier when you replace it with a full magazine, or remove the magazine. Most importantly, Kahr guns are known for not failing when you need them most. There are Kahr owners who have thousands of rounds through their guns, with no problems, and they still carry the guns today.
Our tests with the Kahr P380 bore out what you will hear about the guns if you Google around on them. If you read the Kahr manual, you are supposed to break in all of their guns with 200 rounds when you first get them. This being our second Kahr (the first was the CM9), neither gun has shown that this is actually required, but you should be aware of the advisement in the manual. The P380 is extremely ammunition sensitive though, and if you run into a bad comment about them online, most likely ignorance of this fact is the source of the complaint. Right now, the cheapest .380ACP range ammo that you will find at Wal-Mart is white box Winchester, and it has a flat point. The P380 is a shirt pocket gun and it is extremely squat at 4.9 inches long. This requires a steep feed ramp, and it doesn’t like ammo with a flat point. With the flat point Winchester, as well as any flat hollow point or flat nosed bullets, you will get failures to feed occasionally, and hollow points with wide flat noses with leaves in the jacket won’t feed at all.
The Hornady Critical Defense FTX bullet, shown here as the green zombie version called the Z-Max, has a polymer point and a pointy overall profile. They feed like butter in the P380, with no break-in, right out of the box. It is the same with Remington, Federal, and even Tula roundball (Kahr doesn’t recommend steel case rounds though). You shouldn’t ever get a failure to feed with any of these bullets with the P380. It is an extremely reliable gun, but you do have to understand its limitations. At just over 9 ounces, this is a genuine micro-pistol, and you should expect that you do have to follow the directions for it to work as well as you need it to. Kahr suggests right in their online FAQ that you try a different ammo before assuming a problem with the gun. This kind of ammo sensitivity is an issue with nearly every small pistol on the market, in every caliber. The smaller the gun, the more finicky it will be with ammo.
Accuracy with the P380 was fantastic. This is a very small gun, so with big hands it was remarkable that I could consistently keep a full magazine of 6 and 7 rounds within three to four inches at 10 yards. Most people think of tiny guns as “belly guns,” for extremely close range, but the Kahrs shoot as well or close to as well as most duty pistols at the same distances. The only limitation is how well you shoot such a tiny gun, and that takes some practice, but I bet you can get this gun inside two inches. This is why most police departments choose the Kahr as a backup weapon, and it is one of the reasons why the public doesn’t even flinch at the high price tags on all the Kahr guns. The P380 is only 3/4 of an inch thick, and even with the extended 7 round mag, it is not a three finger grip for a large hand, yet it’ll hold three to four inches at ten yards all day long. Different ammo has different points of impact, but the steel sights on the Kahr P380 are both drift adjustable.
The six round magazine is flush with the magazine well and the whole gun stands at four inches high. The standard sights are a Kahr design, a dot in the front above a bar in the rear, and it is also available with three dot night sights. There is also now a $799 Crimson Trace version, and a $733 California legal P380 that has a loaded round indicator at the top of the slide. Our test gun came with a six round and seven round magazine, but the website says it comes with two, six round mags. Most pocket holster companies have a P380 model, and this is the most practical mode of carry. The P380 comes out of the pocket fast, gets on target fast, and the ergonomics are superb. For small handed, recoil sensitive shooters, the P380 is about as much gun as you could recommend, with those 90 grain Hornady Critical Defense FTX/Z-Max bullets, and is just as ideal for the purse as it is for the pocket. The Recluse holster in particular is great for purse or back pocket carry.
One of the side benefits of buying a Kahr is right on the product page on the website. Click the Slide Assembly, Frame Assembly, or Magazine Assembly tabs. All of the parts for the gun are right there on the page, available from Kahr. Down the road, with a lot of shooting, almost all guns eventually break and need a part. Kahr is a reputable gun company and also owns Magnum Research and Auto Ordnance, and they will be there if and when your gun breaks. They also have a very reasonable repair department for warranty and non-warranty repairs. You pay more for a Kahr, but you are buying a different echelon of firearm than the pocket pistols in the $250-$400 range. Those guns work, some pretty well actually, but they just aren’t in the same class as the Kahrs. If a tiny 380ACP is the gun you’ll carry, and if you can afford it, the one to get is the Kahr P380 – and feed it those Hornady FTX bullets.