Carrying a concealed handgun for personal defense is a balancing act. From a pure performance standpoint, we want a gun that shoots a large, potent caliber that maximizes our chances of stopping the fight. For ease of carry, we want something that is small, lightweight, and conceals well. And because we’re cost conscious, we also want a gun that provides all this at an affordable price. Sound impossible? Well, it’s not—thanks to Kahr’s new CM40.
Kahr Arms is one of the premier manufacturers of compact, sub-compact, and ultra-compact pistols. During the past several years, they have strategically expanded their product line to offer a broad selection of handguns in the most popular defensive calibers. In the process, they have wisely created both premium products and more economical versions of their designs—literally something for everyone. Their latest offering, the CM40, combines the qualities of their popular polymer-framed ultra-compact pistol platform with the power of the .40 S&W cartridge.
The CM40 is based on Kahr’s premium-grade polymer-framed .40, the PM40. To make it more affordable, the CM40 features several calculated alterations in its construction that reduce production costs while still maintaining Kahr’s well-established standards of excellence. The result is a very economical pistol that still provides high performance and extreme reliability.
The most significant difference between the CM40 and the PM40 is the barrel. While the PM40 boasts Kahr’s premium Lothar Walther polygonal match-grade barrel, the CM40’s 3-inch barrel features standard rifling with a 1-in-16-inch right-hand twist.
The matte-finished slide of the CM40 is machined from a solid billet of 416 stainless steel, but has less intricate machining than that of the PM40. Although it is still extremely precise and well executed, it lacks some of the cosmetic details of the PM version and is only available in a matte finish, while the PM40 can also be had with a black finish. Unlike the PM40, which features a slide-stop lever and extractor machined from solid stock, the CM40’s parts are produced through a more cost-effective MIM (metal injection molding) process. The CM40’s front sight is also pinned and made of polymer, in contrast to the dovetail-mounted drift-adjustable steel front sight found on the PM40.
Additionally, the CM40 is furnished with a single, five-round, flush-fitting magazine, while the PM40 comes complete with two magazines—one flush fitting and one extended six-rounder. The CM also ships in a cardboard box, unlike the PM’s molded ABS plastic case.
In terms of dollars, these details account for the difference between the $786 suggested retail of the PM40 and the $517 price tag of the CM40—a savings of nearly 30 percent. However, in terms of performance and reliability as a personal-defense firearm, the differences are negligible. To put it bluntly, the CM40 is an extremely capable defensive handgun and an absolute joy to carry.
Pleasant To Carry
Like most people who carry concealed, I’ve tried a number of different guns, holsters, and carry positions over the years. While I’ve always been a fan of the .40 S&W cartridge because it packs more ballistic punch than a 9mm in the same basic envelope, the 9mm is more controllable in smaller guns so I tend to carry it more. Truth be told, I pack a J-Frame more often than anything else, largely because it’s lightweight and easy to carry. And, as we all know, the first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun.
If you’ve been through the same trial-and-error process and are still struggling to find a gun that is actually pleasant to carry, you need to take a hard look at the CM40. At a mere 5.47 inches long and 4.0 inches tall, it is about an inch shorter in length and a half-inch shorter in height than a Smith & Wesson Model 442 J-frame. At 0.94-inch wide, it is also 28% slimmer than a J-frame. The CM40 weighs only 15.8 ounces unloaded and just over 20 ounces when loaded with a five-shot magazine and a chambered round. Collectively, its compact size and light weight make it the most comfortable major-caliber handgun I’ve ever carried.
Operation & Ergonomics
Like all Kahr pistols, the CM40 uses a hammerless striker-operated firing pin and a traditional Browning-style locked-breech action. It has a passive striker-block safety, but is devoid of any manual safeties. Instead, its trigger-cocking double-action-only (DAO) trigger mechanism ensures that every shot is a conscious, deliberate effort while still providing a clean, easily manageable trigger pull.
I found the feel of the CM40’s trigger very comparable to that of my favorite J-frame and significantly better than most ultra-compact pistols I’ve shot. It broke very cleanly with no overtravel and its broad, smooth face made the trigger feel even lighter than its measured 5.6-pound pull. There is no magazine disconnect, so the gun can be fired with the magazine removed, and the DAO trigger does not have a double-strike feature.
The slim grip frame of the CM40 allows it to lay very flat across the palm when gripped. The gun therefore points very naturally and kinesthetic alignment with the target is very quick. The front sight has a standard white dot and the low-profile rear sight a matching white line just below the notch. Although the sights are not luminous, careful dry-fire experimentation in a variety of lighting conditions confirmed that they are very visible and easily referenced with only minimal ambient light.
Although the focus of this evaluation was the CM40, Kahr’s Northeast Regional Manager Marc Galli was also kind enough to provide me with a PM40, several additional magazines, and a small selection of holsters. This allowed me to thoroughly test the CM40 and compare it side by side with its premium counterpart.
After a few magazines of deliberate aimed fire to get a feel for the gun, I ran through a standard series of range drills with the CM40. These drills included everything from close-contact weapon-retention shooting out to two-handed aimed fire at 10 yards. In honor of one of my mentors, the late Col. Rex Applegate, I also included a fair amount of traditional one-handed point shooting.
Due to its small size and light weight, the CM40 does have brisk recoil; however, it is not at all unpleasant. In fact, I found it a comforting reminder that I was shooting a cartridge that offers significant terminal ballistics. The textured front- and backstraps of the grip allowed easy control of the pistol with the supplied 5-round magazine. Swapping the flush-fitting magazine for an extended 6-rounder gave my little finger a home and, not surprisingly, provided a noticeable improvement in recoil control and shot-to-shot recovery. All shots grouped consistently at or slightly below the point of aim.
Shooting multiple-shot drills at 5 to 7 yards, I had no trouble achieving consistent center-mass hits. The CM40’s sight picture also made head shots no problem, and as I practiced more I found the dot/bar combination easier and easier to access quickly.
Accuracy testing was conducted using a B-27-style target at a measured distance of 21 feet. All shots were fired from an Isosceles stance with a two-handed grip. The ammunition used for testing included three highly regarded personal defense loads: Remington High Velocity 155-grain JHP (R40SW1), Speer Gold Dot 180-grain GDHP (53962), and Federal Premium 180-grain HST (P40HST1). All three loads were also chronographed with a Shooting Chrony at a distance of 15 feet from the muzzle.
First and most importantly, all three cartridges were very controllable in the CM40 and making center-of-mass hits was no problem. All groups averaged between two and three inches, with the Speer Gold Dots offering the best overall accuracy with an average group size of 2.1 inches. The tightest group I shot was just over an inch with the Federal Premium load.
The muzzle velocities of the three cartridges were also comparable and pretty impressive when you consider they were launched from a three-inch barrel. The Speer Gold Dot averaged 975 feet per second (fps), the Federal Premium 963 fps, and the lighter 155-grain Remington JHP 1,143 fps.
While I have no doubt that a more seasoned shooter could wring greater accuracy out of the CM40, my appreciation for the pistol is based on its intended purpose as a personal-defense tool. With that in mind, most of my testing was based on doing the things that matter most in that context.
In addition to the defensive loads cited above, I also assembled a mixed bag of various and sundry .40 S&W ammunition left over from other range sessions. Since reliability is the most important quality of a defensive firearm, stuffing a bunch of magazines with a mix of different cartridges, bullet weights, and configurations is a good way to test a gun’s ability to cope. Despite this eclectic diet, the CM40 never hiccupped.
Similarly, I fired the gun from a wide variety of shooting positions, including two-handed, one-handed, and weak-handed holds, starting with the gun in hand and working directly from different types of draws. Even with an occasional imperfect grip, the gun functioned flawlessly. During several range sessions and a few hundred rounds of ammo, I experienced zero malfunctions with the CM40.
Gunhandling with any ultra-compact pistol is always a challenge, but the exceptional ergonomics of the CM40 make it much more user friendly than most pistols its size. The magazine release button was easy to access and operate and all magazines ejected cleanly. The chamfered magazine well made reloads with both the flush and extended magazines quick and positive. All magazines tested shot to slide lock 100% of the time and despite its strong recoil spring, the generously sized slide release was easy to operate. Similarly, the deep cocking grooves on the slide provided a solid grip and made chambering a round a snap.
Throughout my testing of the CM40, I occasionally switched to the PM40 to see if I could find any significant performance differences between the two. To be very honest, I couldn’t. In simple terms, the CM40 is an incredibly concealable, easy-to-carry pistol that packs a .40-caliber punch into a compact, shootable package. And it does all that at a seriously affordable price. Find out more by calling 508-795-3919 or by visiting kahr.com.