June 2011

Kahr’s CM9: A Tiny Powerhouse

We’ve looked at a bunch of small 9mm handguns recently in these pages, and we’re not done yet.

In recent issues we’ve tested a pretty good share of the increasingly popular 9mm subcompact market. So far we’ve looked at the Kel-Tec PF-9, Ruger’s nearly identical new LC9, the Kahr CW9, and Kimber’s new Solo. So far we’ve rated the Kel-Tec PF-9 and Kahr’s CW9 as ‘A’-grade guns. The others had problems of one sort or another that kept them off the top of our list. Now we have added the brand-new Kahr CM9 ($565) to the batch and gave it to our test team to wring out. Here is what they found.

We liked the tapered front to the stainless slide of the CM9. The trigger pull was pretty good, and the accuracy was at least as good as all the other small nines we’ve tried recently. The simple plastic sights were right on the money. We believe this gun leaves very few reasons for anyone to buy the more costly PM9.


Kahr CM9 9mm, $565

The whole idea behind the CM9 was to make it a less costly version of the small, excellent PM9. By simplifying its manufacture, yet retaining most of the good features, Kahr has succeeded in reducing the price by about $220. Our first impression was that it sure looked a lot like the CW9. Once again its two-tone finish was very well done. The matte-black polymer frame was attractive and nicely finished, no burrs nor other distractions, and the matte-stainless slide had a superb finish and no unnecessary bits. The front and back straps had the grip-solid checkerboard pattern we have come to like, and the gun was smooth and well contoured to easily fit the pocket and hand. The simple controls included a magazine button on the left side, the DAO trigger, and a sizable slide stop that was easy to work. There were a couple of sharp edges around the ejection port that could stand the touch of a file, but nothing serious. The slide serrations were well cut and sharp—and they needed to be to help control the slide when chambering a round. The sights were simple plastic inserts, attached by inner melting in the front and dovetailed into the back, thus providing windage adjustment by drifting. We found the gun hit precisely where it looked, so moving the sights was unnecessary.

We had just evaluated the slightly bigger Kahr CW9 and liked it a whole lot, especially for shooter comfort. We could get all our fingers on the grip. The only thing we disliked was its relatively long trigger pull, which took a lot of getting used to. This smaller Kahr CM9 had a much better trigger pull. The exterior contours were about the same as those of the CW9. The slide was about half an inch shorter but retained the beveled sides on the slide’s front edges. We could get only two fingers onto the front strap of the CM9, but the texture of the grip gave us very good control of this small handgun. The gun ships with one six-round magazine. The overall smoothness of the slide and of the entire gun was superior to that of the CW9, we thought.

The CW9 tested last month, left, was just half an inch longer, but had enough grip to get all the fingers onto it. This gave better control, though we didn’t like its trigger nearly as well as that on the CM9. The force required to fully retract the smaller gun’s slide was noticeably heavier.

Like the larger version, the CM9 has plastic sights and no external safety. Most of the gun’s mass is in the slide. Unloaded, it’s mighty top heavy. The plastic frame has steel inserts at wear points. The 3-inch barrel has six grooves and lands in a right-hand pattern, with 1 turn in 10 inches. We liked the fact that the gun does not have a magazine disconnect. The sight setup was excellent, and we’ve gotten somewhat used to the two-white-dot feature.

Takedown is like other Kahrs. Clear the gun, then line up the marks on the left side of the gun and either pry or bang out the crosspin. Release the striker by pulling the trigger and take the slide off the front. The compound recoil spring may then be pressed out, and with a twist, the barrel comes out.

Reassembly was a snap, and it was time to take the little Kahr to the range. As with the Kimber Solo and Kahr CW9, we tested with Black Hills 147-grain FMJ, Winchester 115-grain BEB, Remington 115-grain JHP, and Federal 124-grain Hydra-Shok JHP. The Kahr shot them all pretty well, exactly where it looked, and got accuracy at least as good as the other guns. Our best group was five into 1.7 inches with the Winchester BEB fodder. There was one failure to fire with that ammo, but we later tried that same round again and it very reluctantly fired, giving a velocity of about 90 percent of the rest of the Winchester ammunition. We concluded it was a faulty round, not something wrong with the gun. The primer strike was solid the first time the round failed to fire. There were no other problems with the Kahr at all.

Please remember not all hands are the same. Be sure you can do good work with your handgun of choice. Some fingers not used to DA revolvers may not be able to get fast shots out of the Kel-Tec, for example, and those used to light SA autos might actually prefer the trigger of the Kimber Solo. We can’t make uniform recommendations for everyone, but must note that if you have weak hands, the heavy springs of the shorter-barreled autos might require too much force for safe handling. It’s easier to get the slide fully back on the Kel-Tec and on the bigger Kahr CW9 than on the short-barrel CM9 and Kimber Solo. Fumbling with any handgun can be dangerous.

We really liked the Kahr CM9. We tried it in rapid-fire against the same-size Kimber Solo and our previous favorite, the slightly larger Kel-Tec PF-9. In short, there is no way the Kimber, as delivered, could match our results with the Kahr CM9 in our hands, because the Kimber consistently spun sideways after the first shot, and also gave us a very painful gouge on our third finger. Several times our shooter, in extreme haste, missed the small safety of the Kimber and was unable to get off a shot. The Kimber’s trigger was excellent, but most of us preferred the Kahr for hand comfort, control, and its superior ability to land multiple fast shots. The Kel-Tec PF-9 was about as fast and about as controllable as the Kahr, or perhaps a bit easier to control because its grip is just a little larger. However, with heavy loads the PF-9 does get the shooter’s attention.

Our Team Said: Bottom line, of all the small nines tested by our Idaho team thus far (the Sig Sauer P290 is next), we like the Kel-Tec PF-9 the best with the Kahr CM9 next. The $565 price of the Kahr will always tend to keep it in second place, compared to the Kel-Tec’s very low price of $333. By the way, now that we’ve tested the Kahr CM9, we see no pressing reason to buy the more costly PM9.