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Carrying concealed doesn’t mean you have to settle for a kinder, gentler cartridge—not if you go thin with Kahr’s PM45.

Shooting Illustrated, May 2008, p. 34 – 39, 77
By Duane A. Daiker

Left: At just about an inch, the Kahr PM45 has a waistline most .45 ACP pistols would die for. It’s critical your concealed-carry gun doesn’t print through your clothing, and while the PM45 is easy to carry, you still get plenty of power from its chambering.

Right: This is the actual size of Kahr’s PM45. There may be plenty of subcompacts out there that rival this petite profile, but it’s rare to find something so small packing the conflict-resolving .45 ACP cartridge. Spare magazines are compact enough to carry, too, so the 5+1 capacity is no drawback.

For many people, a proper carry gun has to be a .45 ACP. Who can blame them? The venerable cartridge has a well-deserved reputation as a man-stopper. Bigger bullets make bigger holes, which tend to stop criminal aggression more quickly—the primary goal of a carry gun.

The problem is that bigger bullets require bigger guns, and bigger guns are harder to conceal and carry. Many civilians who lawfully carry concealed handguns have difficulty hiding a full-size pistol in a major caliber like .45 ACP. Depending upon climate and dress requirements, packing a large handgun can be uncomfortable at best or impossible at worst. So the search for a carry gun is always a balance between adequate power and manageable size.

Enter the Kahr PM45, arguably the smallest .45 ACP pistol in current production. Kahr earned many accolades in 2006 with the introduction of its P45 pistol, which was widely regarded as a groundbreaking compact .45. But Kahr was not content with that success and proceeded to chop the size of the P45 in every dimension, creating the PM45. Kahr describes the PM45 as a “micro” pistol, and it’s hard to argue with the company’s choice of words.

Familiar Features

If you are familiar with any of Kahr’s polymer-framed handguns, the PM45 looks much the same. It is a polymer-framed, double-action-only, single-stack, striker-fired pistol. The real attraction of the PM45 is its size. Although the firearm market has been flooded with scaled-down .45 pistols, this one is less than 6 ins. long and 4.5 ins. tall, with a thickness of just an inch. The PM45 is smaller than many subcompact 9 mm handguns. And at slightly more than 17 ozs. empty, it’s not exactly a brick either.

This pistol features a remarkably short barrel—only 3.14 ins. For the PM-45, Kahr utilizes the less common polygonal rifling, where traditional lands and grooves are replaced with “hills and valleys.” Polygonal rifling is more expensive to produce than traditional rifling, and is designed to yield slightly higher bullet velocities as a result of a better gas seal between the bullet and the barrel. Unlike some other manufactures, however, Kahr does not discourage the use of lead bullets with its polygonal rifling.

Like other Kahrs, this gun has minimalist controls—nothing but a large, slide-release lever and a magazine-release button, both in the usual place. There is no external safety lever. The primary “safety” feature is the long, double-action trigger pull. The length of the trigger pull reminds me of what I’m used to with a double-action revolver, but it is very smooth with minimal take-up and almost no stacking. Kahr claims to have one of the best out-of-the box, double-action-only triggers, and I can’t take issue with that statement. By utilizing a double-action-only mechanism with no manual safety, the PM45’s manual of arms is very simple. It is the essence of a user-friendly interface. Plus, the absence of extra buttons and levers makes the gun that much easier to conceal and to draw from concealment.

The PM45’s 3.14-in. barrel is short and to the point. Although it’s small enough for the gun to be easily carried concealed, which may not wring the maximum velocity out of cartridges or even win matches, the accuracy results were extremely impressive.
Getting a grip on the PM45 at first seemed a challenge for the author, who wound up with his pinky finger wrapped around the base of the magazine. Surprisingly, though, he found recoil quite manageable.

With its small stature the PM45 can also easily be carried inside the waistband. The author chose The Answer from Tucker Gunleather, which features leather on the portion of the rig that contacts the body.

FIST’s K2 High Ride is also a great carry choice for the PM45. With it the muzzle rides barely below the beltline.

For pocket carry the author went with the Pocket Defender from K&D Holsters.

Simplicity of operation is a big advantage in a concealed carry pistol. This picture shows the entire control-mechanism inventory on the Kahr PM45—the trigger, magazine-release button and slide-release lever.

Sights are a fixed, low-profile Kahr design. The rear sight has a single vertical white bar that lines up with the front sight’s single white dot. When properly aligned, the front sight dots the body of the “i” created by the bar on the rear sight. A quick sight picture is easy to acquire, and I tend to like this setup better than the three-dot systems so prevalent today. Tritium night sights are available as an option.

The PM45 is fed by a five-round, stainless steel magazine with an integral base pad. The magazines are proprietary to Kahr, and every gun ships with two. By the time you read this article, Kahr should be offering six-round extended magazines for the PM45 that have a large basepad to prevent over-insertion. The five-round magazines work very well and are small enough to easily carry a spare in your pocket.

Load Velocity Extreme Spread Accuracy
Federal Premium 165-gr. EFMJ 978 48 1.75
Velocity measured in fps 10 ft. from the muzzle for 10 consecutive shots with a Shooting Chrony chronograph. Temperature: 65 degrees F. Accuracy measured in inches for two, five-shot groups fired offhand at 7 yds.

Big Performance

Of course, even the smallest gun isn’t very useful if you can’t shoot it well. The PM45’s ease of handling surprised me. With my large hands, I could not quite get a full grip on the gun without wrapping my pinkly finger around the base of the magazine, but my wife had no trouble. Even so, the gun was surprisingly easy to manage under recoil. I was anticipating the gun being a real handful given my experience with small autoloaders, but despite the size of the PM45, the .45 ACP round seemed less punishing than the snappy recoil of the 9 mm or .40 S&W. I fired 200 rounds in my first session and did not experience any significant discomfort. However, the Federal Premium 165-gr. Low Recoil loads were definitely more pleasant to shoot than the 230-gr. standard loads.

The PM-45 grip frame is typical black polymer with molded-in checkering on the front and rear surfaces of the grip. Checkering is sufficient for obtaining a good grip, but not so aggressive that it will tear up your hand after an extended practice session. The stainless steel slide has a dull-matte finish with nicely rounded edges that are well suited to a concealed carry gun. Given Kahr’s usual pattern, it likely won’t be long before we see a blackened stainless steel slide offered for those who prefer a monochrome appearance.

The combination of efficient sights and a good trigger made it easy to run through the standard drills with this pistol. The PM45 handled well, and tactical and speed reloads were simple enough to perform. I found the magazine-release button required significant pressure to operate, but that can be an advantage in a pocket-sized gun where the accidental release of a magazine is possible. One odd feature of the PM45 is the slide-release lever won’t free the slide if an empty magazine is in place. Kahr warns of this in its instructions and advises to drop the empty magazine before releasing the slide.

Over the course of two days I put more than 250 rounds of assorted ammunition through the PM45. The owner’s manual states the break-in period is a minimum of 200 rounds, so I wanted to shoot at least that many. The gun functioned exceptionally well. Small guns that push the minimum-size envelope can often be temperamental, but the PM45 didn’t exhibit any significant problems. I experienced only two malfunctions. In one instance, the empty brass from the last round in the gun stove-piped in a fashion that was easily cleared. The second malfunction caused a failure to feed that required a rubber mallet to clear, but that problem was traced to out-of-spec ammo in my assortment of leftovers. Both malfunctions occurred within the factory-specified break-in period and were not repeated.

Accuracy and chronograph testing were done with two varieties of Federal Premium Personal Defense Low-Recoil 165-grain ammo, one with Hydra-Shok jacketed-hollow-point bullets and the other with expanding full-metal-jacket bullets. The nod in both accuracy and velocity went to the EFMJ loads, which would be my choice for carry in this gun. As an experiment, I fired a few rounds of the Federal EFMJ through a 5-in.-barreled 1911 for comparison. I was surprised to find the rounds averaged only an additional 65 fps out of the longer tube. It appears the performance loss in the Kahr’s 3.14-in. barrel was not very significant given the huge increase in portability over the full-size 1911.

Carry Considerations

You might have already guessed this gun carries very well. It nearly disappears on a belt, and the very short overall length makes outside-the-waistband carry in a belt holster a good option with almost any type of cover garment. For this kind of carry I utilized one of FIST’s excellent Kydex belt holster, the K2 High Ride. With this holster, the muzzle of the gun is barely below the bottom edge of your belt, and yet the wide stance of the holster keeps it very stable and tight to the body. The K2 works well for general range use or for concealed carry under even a short cover garment.

The PM45 also carries well inside the waistband. For this small gun, I figured that a tuckable holster would be the perfect choice. A call to Tucker Gunleather produced the newest version of The Answer, Tucker’s original leather and Kydex design. The rear panel of the holster, which is in contact with the body, is leather. The remainder of the holster, including the belt clips, is made of Kydex. In this new version of The Answer, the inside of the holster is also lined with thin cowhide to protect the gun’s finish and silence the characteristic noise made by drawing from Kydex. This holster is fully tuckable, adjustable for cant and amazingly comfortable. If you like tuckable holsters, you can go one step further with Tucker’s optional belt clips that attach to a matching hook-and-loop fastening strip on the inside of your belt so that no portion of the holster is visible when a shirt is tucked around it. If you choose this setup, consider ordering a quality gun belt with the fastening strip already installed, like one of those offered by Tucker.

The real advantage of the PM45, however, is the ability to pocket carry. While the PM45 is too large to be considered a true pocket pistol, it is definitely a pocketable pistol. Pocket carry of a gun this size may not work with dress pants, but it is very feasible with sturdy pants with large pockets. If you can pocket carry a J-frame revolver, you can carry this gun.

A pocket holster is required for pocket carry to stabilize the gun, prevent printing and protect the trigger. Pocket holsters can be hard to find for this size gun. My recommendation is the Pocket Defender from K&D Holsters. The company will construct a holster to your specifications, including exotic skins for trim if that tickles your fancy. It may be so nice to look at that it will be a shame to hide in your pocket!

Regardless of your chosen carry method, the size of the PM45 makes carry an easy proposition. This pistol offers a lot more firepower and shootability than any pocket gun, with only a slight increase in size. If you are committed to carrying a concealed firearm, you can find a way to carry this gun.

Before starting this review, I was prepared to think this gun was just too small. After living with it for a while, I think it’s just big enough. The gun is large enough to handle and shoot well—surprisingly well. Yet, it is small enough to be one of the smallest subcompact guns on the market. The fact that this gun is chambered in the highly desireable .45 ACP cartridge is just a bonus. People who wouldn’t consider a sub-compact 9 mm because of reservations with the caliber should take a look at the PM45. Kahr has managed to strike an exceptional balance of power and portability in a .45 ACP concealed-carry gun. If you have been looking for a very small .45, I don’t think you will be disappointed with this portable powerhouse.

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