For my first candidate for a new carry gun, I selected the Kahr CW9, which is produced by Kahr Arms. It is a semi-automatic handgun chambered in 9mm, with a polymer frame and an interal striker mechanism vs. an external hammer. MSRP is $485, and from what I’ve seen they tend to sell in the low $400 range, which is more than ideal in terms of my self-imposed budget.
My first impressions with the gun were surprisingly positive: compared to my SIG, it feels light as a feather, no surprise, as it weighs just slightly over a pound unloaded with an empty magazine, versus the P228’s 1.8 lbs. The pistol pointed very well, though it felt somewhat top-heavy, no surprise considering the polymer frame. Speaking of the frame, this pistol is thin! The slide is only 0.9″ thick, while the frame is (I think) slightly thicker. Even so, it felt really good in the hand. The pistol is just about 6″ long and 4.5″ high, making it slightly smaller than my P228. I think this might be the perfect-sized handgun for me. Sights are of a “bar-dot” configuration, identical to my SIG’s so using them was practically instinctive.
The pistol features a double-action-only trigger mechanism, which means it has a very long, relatively heavy trigger pull that is identical (or very nearly so) from shot to shot. Contrast that with the double-action/single action mechanism of my SIG, which has a very long, heavy trigger pull for the first shot, then short, light pulls for the subsequent shots unless I decock the hammer. I don’t have a trigger pull scale, so I don’t know exactly how heavy the trigger was, but it was noticeably lighter than my SIG’s double-action pull. I’d guesstimate it to be in the 7-8 lb. range. The trigger weight was very consistent through the whole pull, right up until the last 1/8th of an inch. At that point, I experienced what I assume to be “stacking”: i.e. the trigger weight increased somewhat and I felt a little bit of actual resistance. It honestly felt a little bit “springy” for want of a better term, like I was fighting against a coil spring. As a result, the release point was somewhat vague.
In short, I didn’t really like the trigger. However, that was primarily because I am not used to a DAO pull. With sufficient training, I could master it. As it was, once I got used to the trigger, I did manage to put a few rounds into the bulls-eye. Unfortunately, I don’t have the target: it fell off the backer as I was reeling it in, and I couldn’t retrieve it. Okay, I could have, but I wasn’t about to ask the Range Officers to shut down the (very crowded firing line), thereby ruining everyone else’s shooting sessions, so I could get it back.
I have to admit, I was a bit anxious about firing the Kahr. It was so light, at least compared to the SIG, that I expected recoil to be rather harsh and difficult to control. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The gun was extremely controllable, and felt recoil was nearly identical to my SIG. Muzzle rise was noticeably higher, but only just, no surprise given the gun’s relatively light weight. The Kahr was a pleasure to shoot, and I probably would have kept on shooting it longer if I hadn’t run out of ammo: I only bought one box. I can’t comment as to reliability, as I only put fifty rounds through it. That said, the gun is a rental, so it has likely been shot a lot, abused a good deal, and barely ever cleaned, and yet it functioned without a hicup.
The pistol’s magazine is a single-stack design with a capacity is 7 rounds. Eight round magazines are also available. Unfortunately, the magazine proved to be my example’s ultimate weak spot. When loaded with the full 7 rounds, the magazine had a frequent tendency to not hold the first round at the proper angle, causing the round to “nose-dive” when loaded into the pistol. At that point, the round was not angled high enough to move over the feedramp into the chamber, which would cause the pistol to jam. In order to clear the jam, I would have to lock the slide to the rear before stripping out the magazine and attempt to re-seat the rounds in the magazine. This happened regardless of whether or not the slide was locked back when I was loading the gun. After some experimentation, I discovered that the problem would occur if I did not insert each and every round into the magazine in such a way that the round audibly”clicked” into place with the base of the cartridge pressed all the way against the rear of the magazine. Even then, the first round would sometimes nosedive anyway.
I’ve never heard of this happening before with a Kahr, or with any other pistol for that matter. Maybe I just had a bad magazine, but all the same it’s something I can’t accept in a carry pistol. If I find myself in a self-defense gunfight and I’m forced to shoot my pistol dry and reload, if the first round in my fresh magazine were to nosedive like that, it could wind up with me getting killed. That’s unacceptable.
In conclusion, I want to love the Kahr CW9. I really do. It’s the perfect size, thickness, and weight for me, pointed very well, and was a joy to shoot. Minus the trigger, which as I’ve said is simply a training issue. With more practice, I – or anyone else – could master it, no problem. However, the issue with the magazine takes the pistol off my list of contenders. It just haven’t proven reliable enough for me to stake my life on. Which is too bad, because it really is a nifty little gun.