A good personal defense weapon should certainly offer power, accuracy, and reliability, but also the ergonomics to bring it into action quickly. Designing for concealment often means grip size and overall shootability are compromised in favor of small size, often at the expense of other important factors. For example, guns that score well on typical accuracy tests shoot well from a bench rest. They do so by offering a full grip area, longer sight radius and a frame that sits comfortably upon a sandbag. In contrast, a defense gun should be at its best fired from a standing position.
Thus, in our opinion a defense gun should be easy to shoot quickly, reasonably accurately, and, when necessary, be operated effectively with only one hand. We recently found several guns that we thought fit this bill, including Glock’s $616 GL27, Taurus’s $484 PT140, and Kahr’s $602 K40 and $594 MK40 (a micro gun), all in .40 S&W. But the more we worked them over, the more we wondered if they were just too difficult to shoot.
Most subcompact semi-autos offer little in the way of grip frame or dust cover, making them hard to adapt to the typical pistol rest. Thus, to test accuracy at 15 yards, we created a bench set up utilizing a sandbag topped with a Protecktor bunny ear leather sandbag normally used for stabilizing the buttstock of a rifle. We checked velocities with the Oehler Research Model 35P chronograph ( 327-6900).
Since the Taurus PT140 was acquired before the other pistols, it got 300+ rounds of casual shooting and plinking break in. The Kahr pistols came with an instruction booklet that demands a break in period. “The pistol should not be considered fully reliable until after it has fired 200 rounds.” So we dutifully fired the obligatory 200 rounds to loosen them up and season the parts with lubricant (this is an all metal gun). The Glock 27 was fired offhand out of the box briefly and put directly to work. A rapid fire drill at 7-yard targets was also performed with each gun. This was perhaps the most telling of all sessions. Here’s what we found on a gun-by-gun basis.
The $484 price and higher capacity makes this gun tempting, but the PT140’s mushy trigger is hard to overcome. Also, this pistol proved unreliable with Sellier & Bellot ammunition when using a controlled press trigger technique. This may be a judgment call as to whether to reject the gun or reject the ammo, but there are still better options available elsewhere.
We did not encounter a malfunction with the Taurus PT140 until we began firing Sellier & Bellot ammunition with a careful controlled press from our bench rest position. The day before we had spent some time at a police range where the pistol functioned normally, if not admirably, with a supply of UMC full-metal-jacket ammunition. The officers who shared the PT140 each commented that the trigger was far too vague for serious combat. No one saw fit to use the slide safety, and we forgot about it too throughout the test session. The double action-only trigger was so long that it didn’t seem necessary. One need not fear incidental contact with the trigger breaking a shot with or without the thumb safety engaged. However, this should not encourage anyone to leave this gun unattended and loaded.
A key-operated slide and trigger lock located on the right side of the just behind the extractor acts as another safety.
What the Taurus does have going for it is 10+1 capacity and very good accuracy from a supported position such as a bench rest. Fired offhand, all three of these guns take a great deal of concentration to shoot accurately because the longer hinged trigger designs invite the operator to scoop the trigger and dip the muzzle. To counteract this problem, grip technique should include a downward canted wrist hand on the weak hand. Both the Kahr pistol and the Taurus suffer inordinately from the same condition that makes an accurate shot both time consuming and intricate and true rapid fire nearly impossible. The shooter ends up having to maintain a ready position between shots where the trigger finger is curled in an effort to shorten take-up and still allow for the trigger to reset. The result is a dangerous situation for bystanders in terms of accidental discharge. It might be better to know where the break in the trigger is at all times and keep the finger completely off of it until ready to fire. This is safer than constantly trying to stage the trigger in hopes of maintaining a high level of readiness.
The Taurus PT140 was the most accurate gun in the test. We credit much of this success to the grip frame, which packs in a double-stack ten-round mag and accommodates a full hand grip. The most accurate round was the Sellier & Bellot 180-grain FMJ round that produced light hits. We suspect this brand of ammunition uses a harder cap on its primers. The S&B rounds are also sealed watertight, and the sealing compound may contribute to this condition. Had not the Glock 27 also had this problem (albeit only twice in 400 rounds), we would blame the Taurus pistol alone.
We wouldn’t buy this $602 unit, mainly because it is not easy to shoot fast or consistently, in our view. A long, uncertain break point makes rapid fire difficult despite very good ergonomics.
The Kahr K40 fired the Sellier & Bellot ammunition more accurately than the other test rounds, and it always went off using the round. Whereas all three guns preferred this round at least in terms of accuracy, perhaps the ticket to small groups is the 180-grain slug, regardless of brand. The Kahr did, however, have trouble feeding both the S&B and PMC rounds until the 200-round break-in period was surpassed. The K40 is the only all-steel pistol in this test, and sometimes a seasoning period for the metals is necessary.
To break down and lubricate the pistol, the shooter pulls back the slide to align the takedown notch with the slide release and push it through the frame. However, we needed a rubber hammer to push the pin partially out and a screwdriver to pry it out. Even if we were to assume that the K40 we tested functioned perfectly, it still suffered from the same problems as the Taurus. Even with its very good grip-to-hand fit, we think this is a very difficult gun to shoot quickly. Also, its 6+1 round count is limited compared to other pistols in its class.
Ballistically, the K40 was the muzzle energy king of our trio, topping out at 505 foot-pounds firing the Cor-Bon 135-grain JHP. The all-steel Kahr had the best accuracy with this round as well, and reliability with it was 100 percent. The sheer blowback power of this round helped make all the guns function reliably.
Glock Model 27
All this $616 gun needs is a longer grip to get a Buy rating. If adding an aftermarket part is not to your taste, then we recommend the larger GL23.
While there isn’t enough of this pistol to suit our hands, what there is of it gives the shooter a measure of confidence. Returning to the police range we visited with the Taurus PT140, one comment we heard was that thousands of officers qualify with all manner of guns every year, and police officers think Glocks are the most dependable. In stock form, without the benefit of any grip extension or remodeling, we fired the gun offhand with the wrist position canted forward so that the thumbs point at the target. Using this technique, we had very good results perforating the upper A zone of a Millpark target.
The trigger on the Glock is hinged, but after the first shot, takeup is shortened considerably. This means once you have committed to shooting, rapid fire is easier to maintain. While not the equal of a crisp single-action trigger, we found the Glock 27’s trigger more than willing to fire.
The Glock did have two failures to fire with the S&B ammunition, but the Taurus had an even harder time getting it to ignite regularly. Frankly, we’ve never seen this happen before with a Glock, but one other characteristic points to a more common phenomenon. When it comes to Cor-Bon ammunition, we have found that guns either love it or hate it. For example, when we tested Springfield’s V10 Ultra Compact Enhanced, it shot the 165-grain .45 ACP JHP from Cor-Bon extremely well. Likewise, the Cor-Bon rounds in this test were especially good in our two Kahr pistols. Yet, the large metropolitan police department whose range we visited for portions of this test forbids the use of Cor-Bon because of what the department calls unpredictable accuracy.
Our GL27 didn’t match up with our supply of Cor-Bon either. This is possibly due to the rifling that Glock chooses to line their barrels. Accuracy with the remaining two test rounds, especially the 180-grain slug, was very good, however. In our opinion, test results on the accuracy side would have been better if the grip frame of this pistol lent itself better to bench rest shooting.
To see how the gun’s performance might be augmented, we ordered two grip extensions by Pearce from Brownells, ( 623-5401). Part number 092-100-26 for $9.95 promised to make room for the pinky finger. Part number 092-100-27 also promised to add an extra round as well to the GL27 (or GL33) for the same price. These parts connect directly to the magazine body and actually replace the stock base pads.
We installed them on each of the two supplied nine-round magazines and returned to the range for a session of firing unsupported at 12 yards. Without a doubt these products improved control of the gun. While one base pad adds a round and the other does not, their outer dimensions are the same. The plus-one base pad is checkered to continue the pattern on the GL27’s front strap and makes for a totally coordinated look. While we did encounter one more failure to ignite shooting the S&B ammunition, what we were looking for was feeding malfunctions. The blind magazine extension allowed the GL27 to run perfectly, but with the plus-one base pad installed, we suffered our only failure-to-feed malfunctions of the test. Two malfunctions occurred when the pistol was being fired strong hand only and one more with both hands holding on tight. The failures to feed were caused by the rounds nose diving inside the mag rather than finding the feed ramp. This is a typical malfunction when the magazine spring is weakened. In our opinion, the addition of the standard grip extension is a feasible and helpful addition to the Glock 27. Use of the plus-one grip extension would require replacing the mag spring and thorough follow-up testing.
Gun Tests Recommends
Taurus PT140, $484. Don’t Buy. Our inability to make the gun shoot fast was enough to make us pass on this one.
Kahr K40, $602. Don’t Buy. While appealing and comfortable, we feel this gun may be too slow to operate under the stress of attack. Also the trigger is too vague and could lead to an accidental discharge, in our view. In contrast, its little brother, the $594 MK40, would make a good hideout gun, despite its weight.
Glock 27, $616. Conditional Buy, as is. For $9.95 we added the necessary ergonomics to overcome its lack of available grip, making it easier to shoot fast, if not comfortably. However, your choice of ammunition may be the key to its reliability.
Also With This Article