Kahr PM40 No. 4043 40 S&W
In this test Gun Tests looked at a semiautomatic pistol suitable for ankle carry or other deep concealment, the $786 Kahr PM40 No. 4043 40 S&W. Despite its small size, this gun is as pricey as many popular full-size models. But if it comes down to drawing a gun from deep concealment, at least you can take comfort in knowing youre not about to depend on a cheap pistol.
For testing in the summer heat we arrived at Phil Oxleys Impact Zone, located in Monaville, Texas, at daybreak (www.TheImpactZoneRange.com). The shade of a cypress tree and a steady breeze helped keep the team cool as they practiced firing standing offhand and from the bench before attempting shots of record. Then they fired five-shot groups from sandbag support to establish accuracy from the 10-yard line. They also engaged two different action tests to tell them more about the guns capability when fired standing without support.
First, they tried the familiar test of delivering two shots to the center of an IPSC metric target followed by a single shot to the head area of its humanoid silhouette. Center mass on the target consisted of an A-zone measuring 6.0 inches wide and 11.0 inches tall. The head area measured 6.25 inches by 6.75 inches overall, with another A-zone measuring 4.0 inches by 2.0 inches to designate a preferred area of impact. After an audible start signal, the elapsed time of each shot was displayed by an electronic timer. Ten separate strings of fire were recorded. Test distance was 7 yards.
The second action test also required three shots per draw but only to the center of the target. Instead of holding the gun in both hands, the shooter utilized only his strong hand (right hand only for a right-handed shooter or left hand only for the left-handed shooter). In each case the start position was holding the gun pulled back toward the chest with little more than the muzzle at the bottom of the shooters vision. Upon start signal, the gun was thrust toward the target.
The list of test ammunition consisted of four different loads. For the bench session they fired Winchester USAs 165-grain FMJ rounds and two choices from Black Hills. They were remanufactured loads (sold in blue boxes) topped with a 180-grain FMJ bullet and Black Hills new manufacture 180-grain jacketed hollowpoints packed in red boxes. For the action test, they relied upon Black Hills new manufacture 155-grain JHP rounds to help them paint a picture of how each gun might perform filled with defensive ammunition when rapid fire was called for. Here is what they learned.
The Kahr PM40 was the smallest gun tested. This would seem to make it the most natural choice for an ankle holster or other manner of deep concealed carry. Indeed, it is a very popular gun for backup, and from its introduction aftermarket houses such as Wilson Combat and more recently Cylinder and Slide (cylinder-slide.com) offer enhanced custom Kahr pistols. This is not to say the stock pistol is lacking, but is a high compliment.
Overall there are more than 20 different Kahr pistols now available with different frame sizes, frame materials (stainless steel or polymer), barrel lengths (3.0 inches to 4.04 inches), finishes, and sights. The tested PM40 was a subcompact polymer-frame version of the basic Kahr design with a 3-inch barrel and ultra-low-profile sights. Three other versions of this same pistol are available with night sights and/or a blackened stainless steel slide. Prices range from $786 to $939. The Kahr.com website describes the operation of the PM40 as "Trigger cocking DAO, lock breech, Browning type recoil lug, passive striker block and no magazine disconnect." The term trigger-cocking DAO" can be misleading because the trigger will not fire the gun without movement of the slide to set the action. The term passive striker block means that pressing the trigger releases the striker. This is more of a drop-proof system than an actual mechanical safety, not much different really than the Glock or Walther pistols. The key is that the gun will not go off without pressing the trigger.
Without a decocker or a safety lever, the only point that interrupted its straight vertical sides was the slide-stop pin. GT said when they listed the maximum width of the PM40 (about 1.11 inches) on the spec sheet, they were actually listing the length of the pin from the contact pad on the left side of the gun to the end of the pin on the right. With the pin removed, the gun itself is less than one inch wide. The box size of the PM40 varied from about 5.7 inches by 4.1 inches to 5.7 inches by almost 5.0 inches, depending on which of the two supplied magazines were in place. The flush-fit model carried five rounds, and the extended-length magazine held six. GT did most of its shooting with the longer magazine in place because the flush-fit magazine left pinky fingers dangling beneath the pistol. In most cases they found that the gun remained small and concealable even with the long magazine in place. Each of these magazines featured a removable basepad for easy cleaning or to replace the springs and followers.
Field-stripping the PM model varied from its steel-framed brothers in that the slide was moved rearward to match marks in the slide and frame imprinted forward of the trigger guard rather than to the rear of the frame. Once aligned, the slide stop tab matched the cutout in the slide, allowing it to be pushed out from right to left. Pressing the trigger freed the top end from the frame. The Kahr also utilized a plunger and dual spring recoil system, but the forward spring was not captured. It was seated so tightly on to the guide rod that it remained attached to the unit. Reinstallation, however, did require compression of the spring against the inside face of the slide. After replacing the slide on to the frame, insertion of the slide stop pin began not with aligning the frame and slide marks but instead watching for the kidney shaped hole in the barrel lug to line up with the hole in the frame. After inserting the pin the slide was moved rearward to clear the relief for the locking tab.
From the bench Gun Tests found the standard Kahr sights to be more than adequate. The front sight showed a white dot and the rear sight offered a white vertical line below its notch. Overall, the Kahr PM40 was capable of delivering 2.0-inch groups with the selection of test ammunition. With so many different rounds of 40 S&W to choose from, the team felt sure they could improve on that. But they found that despite having the shortest barrel, the Kahr PM40 produced the most velocity and muzzle energy overall. In addition, they liked the way the small gun nestled deeply into their hands without any danger of the slide bite.
In the action tests they did not find it difficult to land hits to the central A-zone. They didnt have any hits inside the smaller upper A-zone, but only two shots narrowly escaped the head area completely. Elapsed times averaged about 2.47 seconds. First shots were fired at about the 1.10-second mark. They thought it was the length of the trigger pull and the short sight radius that prompted them to be more deliberate. The strong-hand-only runs were over in about 2.98 seconds. First-shot strong-hand-only shots came at about the 1.17-second mark, but accuracy was good.
Gun Tests Said: This is one of the few really small pistols where they could lock their hands around the gun and take command of the trigger while keeping the gun stable. With the shorter five-round magazine in place they found the PM40 to be the best bet for ankle carry. Not a blindingly fast pistol, the PM40 was nevertheless precise and unexpectedly the most powerful of the tested guns overall.