The first 9mm handgun that I ever owned was the S&W Model 39. I carried that gun on-duty as a private investigator for a long time. I had a lot of confidence in that gun. And, back then, it was considered a real light-weight pistol at around 28 ounces, and it held 8+1 rounds of 9mm ammo – more than enough to stop most hostile actions, with a spare 8-rd mag on-hand, it was a hot seller. The Model 39 wasn’t exactly a compact pistol by any stretch of the imagination. If you wanted something smaller, many folks went to itty-bitty .25ACP pistols of some sort – and they were (and still are) notorious for not stopping fights.
The biggest problem back in the 1970s was that, the only 9mm ammo you could get, that would reliably feed in a 9mm handgun was FMJ (Full Metal Jacket). And, it was not known as a fight-stopper. (And it still isn’t). There were a few jacketed hollowpoint (JHP) and soft point (SP) 9mm rounds, but none of them really fed 100% all the time in my S&W Model 39. Still, I carried that gun for a long time, with 9mm FMJ ammo. Call me young and dumb – back then! Today, my choice would be one of the better JHP 9mm loads – which are proven man stoppers.
We’ve come a long, long way from the S&W Model 39. Today, we have all manner of sub-compact 9mm handguns, that reliably feed all manner of JHP ammo. I still remember the first Kahr 9mm handgun I saw – I bought it! I simply couldn’t believe how super-smooth the double-action only trigger pull was on the gun. Many gun writers have said that Kahr is the Rolls Royce of DAO trigger pulls, and I’m not gonna dispute that.
The 9mm round still isn’t my first choice (today) as a man stopper. However, with the better 9mm JHP rounds on the market, I’d have no problem carrying a 9mm handgun as my main gun. Black Hills Ammunition, Buffalo Bore Ammunition and Winchester Ammunition all have some hot-stepping JHP rounds that are good fight stoppers. And, they also have +P rounds as well as +P+ rounds, too. Those really brings the stopping power of the 9mm round way up on the scale as a fight-stopper if you ask me. However, not all 9mm handguns are rated to handle the hotter +P and +P+ rounds – and I don’t think anymaker will actually warrant their handguns to stand-up to +P+ use.
The gun under review here is the newly released Kahr Arms CM9. This is their new economy version of their 9mm sub-compact line-up. The slide is stainless steel, with a polymer frame. Magazine capacity on the CM9 is 6+1 rounds, and the gun only comes with one magazine, but spare mags are readily available. With a 3″ barrel, and a double action only (DAO) trigger pull of about 6 pounds, the little Kahr weighs in at only 14 ounces. Not the lightest sub-compact 9mm on the market, but it’s near the top of the list. The sights are also polymer, with the rear being drift adjustable for windage, and have the bar-dot combat type of sight – fast and easy to pick-up, even with my aged eyes. The length of the gun is 5.42″, height is only 4″ and the slide width being .90″ – so this is one tiny 9mm pistol. There is no external/manual safety on the CM9. However, [like a Glock] there are internal safeties that prevent the gun from accidentally firing if dropped.
I will say, though, that the poly Kahr pistols don’t have the same super-smooth DAO trigger pull as the metal-framed Kahr’s had. However, that’s not to say there is anything “wrong” with the trigger pull on the poly guns. It’s still smooth as butter – just not quite as smooth as the older metal frame guns were. I still think the Kahr line of handguns has one of the best DAO trigger pulls on the market.
As always, read the owner’s manual before taking your Kahr out for a test run. Kahr still advises that you shoot at least 200 rounds of ammo through their guns to break them in. Over the past couple of years, I haven’t had to do that – with the older Kahr’s I did. However, it’s still a good idea to run about 100 rounds of whatever self-defense ammo you want to carry in your Kahr to make sure it will function reliably with that particular load.
I had no problems with standard FMJ 9mm ammo, and I also ran some +P JHP through the little Kahr from Winchester, Black Hills and Buffalo Bore. I had no problems with any of the +P JHP ammo – but it did let me know that I had some hot ammo in the gun, and I wouldn’t want to shoot +P through this Kahr all day long. The only ammo I had problems with was the Buffalo Bore +P+ ammo – it was just too hot for the Kahr to reliably handle all the time. Buffalo Bore makes some really hot 9mm +P+ ammo and some handguns won’t handle it – period! While the CM9 did work with this Buffalo Bore load about half the time, I wouldn’t trust the gun to handle it in a self-defense situation. This is why you have to test the self-defense ammo you plan on using, to make sure you gun will function with it 100% of the time. The light-weight of the CM9, plus the slide velocity was the killer with the Buffalo Bore +P+ ammo. I concluded that the slide was moving too fast and the stout magazine spring still wasn’t pushing the rounds up fast enough so the slide could catch them and feed them into the chamber.
My preferred 9mm JHP round for the little CM9 is the new Black Hills 9mm 115 grain +P TAC-XP all copper bullet round. This is really new from Black Hills, and I’m impressed with it. The gun also performed flawlessly with the Winchester Supreme 124 grain JHP +P round, and this would be a great choice in the CM9 as well. With either the Black Hills or the Winchester +P rounds, you know you’ve got a handful of power there, and you need to really hold onto the little Kahr. I tried to limp-wrist the CM9 to see if I could get it to malfunction – it didn’t – but that’s not to say it won’t. As with all polymer guns, you really need to lock your wrist – if you don’t, you’re inviting a malfunction – when you least need one.
In all, I fired over 300 rounds of ammo through the little Kahr, over several days, and there were zero problems – excluding the +P+ ammo. Maximum distance was 15 yards, and I think that’s a fair test for accuracy with a little 3″ barrel pistol. I was getting groups around 3″ at 15-yards, and that’s good enough for such a little gun, with such a short barrel. All firing was done standing – I didn’t sandbag the gun.
The little Kahr CM9 did buck with the +P loads, as expected. However, with standard velocity 9mm FMJ loads, the CM9 was pretty tame – and for such a lightweight gun, that surprised me. I honestly thought I’d get more “kick” from a 14-ounce pistol.
All things considered, the Kahr CM9 earns a place as a back-up to whatever my main gun might be. The only reason the CM9 didn’t earn a spot for me as my main gun is that, given the short barrel and limited magazine capacity, I’d like something more for a main carry gun. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t carry the little CM9 as your main carry piece – I know several people who do carry sub-compact 9mm Kahr’s as their one and only gun, and that works for them. A friend of mine, a retired FBI Agent, who also served as a firearms instructor at the FBI Academy, routinely carries his Kahr sub-compact 9mm as his one and only gun. He owns several Kahrs in 9mm and .45ACP.
As always, if you decide to carry the little CM9 as your one and only gun, make sure you purchase and carry at least one spare magazine with you. My choice of carry would be in an ankle holster for the CM9. I personally know several guys who carry their Kahr’s in a pocket holster or an in the waistband holster.
Full retail on the CM9 is $565 – a bit steep, but you can usually find them for quite a bit less if you shop around. If you want one of the smallest, and most concealable 9mm pistols on the market, and that has one of the best DAO trigger pulls – then check out the new CM9 at your local dealer. You could do a lot worse for your money. – SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio