The Kahr CW9 is a 9mm pistol from the company’s value line (read: less expensive) of pistols that include the CW40 (.40 S&W) and CW45 (.45 ACP). I’ve been looking for a single stack 9mm for concealed carry, so I jumped at the chance to review this gun.
Normally I carry a Glock 19 as my primary CCW pistol. Frequently a S&W 642 will ride shotgun in a pocket, and I don’t see giving that up any time soon. But, as much as I love my second gen Glock, I have to admit that thoughts of a thin, single stack have been gnawing at me.
Other compact 9mm pistols just haven’t appealed much to me. The Taurus 709 doesn’t have enough grip to feel good in the hand, and the Glock 26 is too darn thick for my desires. I shot the Ruger LC9 at the SHOT Show, and it shows promise, but I was eager to get the Kahr out to the range.
The CW9 is a single stack 9mm pistol with a polymer frame and stainless steel slide and barrel. The frame is black, while the slide has a matte stainless finish.
The sights are the typical dot front, bar rear configuration found on other Kahr pistols. The front sight is polymer and fixed onto the slide. The rear slide is steel and dovetailed. The rear steel sight allows the shooter to use the sight to rack the slide one handed when training for one hand reloads and malfunction clearing drills.
The magazine is stainless steel with a polymer baseplate. The magazine is the same as the mag from the Kahr P-series of pistols, so finding spares should not be a problem. The CW9 ships with one magazine only.
Total capacity in the 9mm version is 7+1, but 8 round magazines are available.
The grip is just about long enough for me to get my whole hand on, and when the magazine is inserted, perfect grip length is achieved. This is important to me, as I hate it when my pinky (or more) is hanging off the bottom of the pistol.
This Kahr is very thin, measuring only 0.9” wide at the slide. With the single stack frame, the gun felt pretty good in my hand. My hands run small to medium, so keep that in mind when considering my observations.
I prefer to carry a pistol in an “inside the waistband holster” (IWB) under a t-shirt or polo shirt. Since I live in central Florida, I don’t get much of a chance to wear a coat for concealment.
A good holster can make all the difference, but the CW9 is really thin and much easier to tuck inside your waistband than the typical double stack pistol.
The CW9 has a barrel length of 3.6” and an overall length of 5.9”. Weight of the pistol is only 15.8 ounces (unloaded).
A common mistake made about the CW9 is that the frame rails on this pistol are entirely made from polymer. At first glance this appears to be true, but it is not. The rails are metal, but there is a plastic component that could be considered part of the rail system.
The rear metal rails are immediately observable. The front metal rails may escape notice on the first glance, as they are somewhat concealed in the dust cover portion of the frame. Plastic “rails” align with the rear metal rails, but are not said to be integral to the reliable functioning of the pistol.
On my gun, I put more than 700 rounds through it and then checked for wear on the rails. Not surpassingly, there was visible wear on the plastic portion of the rails. The tops of the plastic felt as if they had been rough sanded and the edges of the plastic had small bits of shavings.
While this may be concerning, the gun did not have any malfunctions. Additionally, this portion of the plastic frame is not visible from the exterior of the pistol. So, while the initial look of the worn areas may be generally concerning, I can find no reason to believe the pistol will not function reliably, and still maintain its good looks.
MSRP is $549.
Shooting the Kahr
I spent a lot of time on the range with the CW9. This was the first Kahr I’ve had the chance to test and I really wanted to give it a good workout.
I put somewhere close to 750 rounds through the CW9 including eight different defensive loads. Throughout the shooting, I experienced no malfunctions of any kind.
The CW9 has a typical Kahr trigger that is more like a double action revolver than the typical modern striker fired pistols. This may, or may not, appeal to different people. My bias: I love my Smith & Wesson revolvers, but most frequently carry a Glock. I guess I just like both.
The trigger pull is smooth, but somewhat long. Since the CW9 is thin, I found that far too much of my finger wanted to address the trigger. This meant that initially my accuracy suffered as my finger tip was hanging out of the left side of the trigger guard, touching my support hand. Consciously shifting my finger position fixed the problem, but it never felt as natural for me as with other pistols.
The DAO trigger pull measured an average of 7 lbs, 1 oz on my Lyman trigger pull gauge.
One additional thing about the CW9’s trigger pull is there is not a reset point halfway along the path of the trigger when letting off pressure. To shoot a follow-up shot, you have to let the trigger all the way out (absolutely all the way out) before pressing again.
The return pressure on the trigger is not strong enough to really “snap” the trigger back out, so you have to be careful to avoid short stroking the trigger.
For what it is worth, I have seen police videos of officers carrying third generation S&W autoloaders (5900-series for example) where the officers did not let the trigger all the way out after the first shot, so subsequent trigger pulls did not make the gun go bang.
Maybe you consider this a gun problem or a training defect. Regardless, that’s the way the Kahr works, so take that into consideration.
Unlike a lot of the micro-compact 9mm pistols, I really enjoyed shooting the Kahr. Recoil with even the hottest self defense loads was very light. Rapid shots were very easy to keep on target.
The pistol was fairly accurate, with most five shot groups landing inside a 4” group at 15 yards when shot off hand. Any accuracy problems with the CW9 were my fault, not a indicator of problems with the firearm.
The magazine springs remained tight throughout the shooting. My only complaint with the magazines is the feed lips are a bit sharp. So, after a long range session of loading the same two magazines over and over, my thumb was talking openly of rebellion. It is a relatively small issue, but one you should know about prior to taking this to a Rob Pincus or Massad Ayoob class.
As I mentioned earlier in the article, I put hundreds of rounds through the CW9. Functioning was 100% with all of the loads. The best accuracy was with the 147 grain Speer Gold Dot ammunition, but all of the self defense loads were good performers, with the 124 grain Remington Golden Saber coming in behind the 147 grain Speer for second place.
I generally prefer a 9mm bullet with a velocity of at least 1100 fps to help ensure expansion. Excepting the Remington and Magtech offerings, all of the 115 grain and 124 grain self defense loads exceeded 1100 fps out of the relatively short Kahr barrel.
The 147 grain loads all ran in the low 900’s for velocities, with the +P Federal HST not offering much of a velocity improvement over the standard pressure Winchester PDX (936 fps vs 924 fps).
The Kahr CW9 may be in the company’s budget line, but it performed as well as any pistol could be expected. Reliability was 100% with a broad range of ammunition, and it was very easy shooting.
The only issue I have with the CW9 is the trigger: both the long pull and the long distance to travel for reset. These are issues that I can train to handle, so I don’t worry too much about them. Nonetheless, I would have to put in some serious practice time before I was completely comfortable with transitioning from my Glock to the Kahr.
It may be a moot point anyway. My wife handled the gun after I got back from the range, and she is insisting on making it hers. Sigh…