Back when revolvers dominated the scene, choosing a smaller handgun for self-defense was pretty much a no-brainer. Uniformed law enforcement officers, by and large, carried medium- or large-framed service revolvers, and it was only logical that they embrace similar technology when dressed in soft clothes. Snub revolvers from Colt and Smith & Wesson were the hands-down choice, and it was very usual for plainclothes or off-duty coppers to carry anything else.

Fast-forward to the present and you will note that the paradigm has shifted 180 degrees. Law enforcement officers have pretty much abandoned the revolver as a duty weapon and the snub revolver is now the exception rather than the rule for plainclothes/off-duty carry. Three decades ago, lawful concealed carry didn’t exist. Today, at least 40 states allow responsible citizens to carry a firearm to control their own destiny. This, in turn, has created a huge demand for small, concealable handguns.

Kahr Difference

In 1995, the upstart firm of Kahr Arms took a huge step and introduced the revolutionary K9 pistol. While others had attempted to do this before, the Kahr K9 is widely recognized as the first successful “micro-nine,” a service-caliber firearm with external dimensions no larger than a pocket pistol. Since the K9 in 9mm Parabellum delivers twice the muzzle energy of a like-size .380 ACP pistol, it quickly attracted a great deal of attention.

In less than 20 years, Kahr Arms has grown from a non-entity to a major player. Their current lineup includes over 70 variants in different sizes, calibers, and frame materials. This outstanding lineup of pistols is especially popular with law enforcement officers in search of a backup or off-duty gun, as well as the civilian concealed carry market.

A number of factors distinguish Kahr pistols from those offered by other manufacturers of small defensive handguns. Perhaps the most unique quality is Kahr’s offset feed ramp, which allows placement of the trigger mechanism next to the barrel rather than underneath it. In doing so, Kahr is able to keep the axis of the bore lower in relation to the shooter’s arm, which reduces muzzle flip and makes for quicker follow-up shots.

Kahr pistols feature a straightforward manual of arms and a double-action-only (DAO) trigger. This unique trigger action is very smooth and trips with about 7 to 9 pounds of rearward pressure. This is just about perfect for a small, self-defense pistol and is unlikely to result in an unintentional discharge. Shooters who have been less than enamored with the triggers of many other DAO service pistols may find the Kahr line much more user-friendly.

Upon handling a Kahr pistol, one quickly comes to the conclusion that it is indeed a high-quality firearm. The same cannot be said for many contemporary pistols marketed for discreet carry. Workmanship is indeed first rate, and Kahr pistols are engineered to go the distance.

Many Options

Consumers can opt for either a stainless steel or polymer frame for most of the Kahr offerings. While I wouldn’t categorize the metal-frame pistols as heavyweights, a light-as-a-feather polymer-frame pistol may have some advantages depending on your application. This is especially true if the pistol is to be carried in a pocket or ankle holster.

The slides of Kahr pistols are made of CNC-machined stainless steel bar stock and are heat-treated and tempered for durability. Lothar Walther barrels with polygonal rifling are utilized in all top-of-the-line Kahr pistols. The barrels are made of a solid round billet of steel to match-grade tolerances. Magazines, too, are of the highest quality. Constructed of 400 series stainless steel, magazines are heat-treated and plasma-welded for flawless feeding of cartridges and reliability.

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