If there’s one thing that can be said about Kahr Arms, it’s that the company produces a compact semi-auto for the concealed carry needs of just about every shooter. In fact, Kahr produces three sizes of compact pistols with approximately 70 different variations. There are so many variations of the Kahr design that one could easily get confused trying to determine what is compact versus subcompact, etc. So, let’s be practical and simply define compact from the perspective of concealed carry. A “compact pistol” is one that can easily be concealed inside the waistband (IWB) or in a large pocket.

This definition includes semi-auto handguns with barrels under 4 inches, magazines that hold seven or fewer rounds and weigh less than 23 ounces. To me, any pistol that meets these criteria has to be considered compact when today’s average service pistol has a 4-inch barrel, a magazine that holds at least 10 to 15 rounds and a weight of somewhere between 26 and 35 ounces. By these criteria, even the larger Target models from Kahr are really in between compact and full-sized. Therefore, all of the handguns made by Kahr Arms can be seen to closely adhere to the mission that Kahr CEO Justin Moon defined when he set out to design the ideal concealed-carry pistol in the early 1990s.

Kahrs Made To Order

One thing that can be said of Kahr Arms’ pistol lineup is that the buyer has quite a large number of features and calibers to choose from. You can literally get a personalized pistol from the factory. To begin with, compact Kahrs are chambered in four of the most common personal-defense cartridges used in semi-automatics: .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 S&W and .45 ACP. There are two main series: the Premium Series and the Value Series. The difference between the Premium and Value Series pistols is important to some buyers. However, there is no difference in terms of reliability or durability. The Premium pistols have polygonal rifling; dovetailed steel front sights; two magazines with flush floorplates; and a higher grade of decoration. The Value Series pistols have conventional rifling, pinned polymer front sights and come with one flush-floorplate magazine. Both grades have good reputations for accuracy and quality.

The main differences are simply the price and level of finish.


Another area of variation is found in the material from which the pistols’ frames are made. The first Kahr pistols had steel frames. Today some models are still available with frames made of stainless steel, but due to customer preference, most Kahrs now come with polymer frames. The barrels are also made of stainless steel and come in eight different lengths between 2.58 and 4 inches depending upon the caliber of the gun and the size of the frame. The slides are stainless steel and may be silver, black, “titanium” or bronze in color. Not all slide finishes are available in every caliber or frame size.

There have also been a few Kahrs with blue polymer frames. Lastly, there are a variety of sights to choose from. Kahrs can have open sights, tritium night sights, laser sights and red or green fiber-optic sights. Given these variations, a buyer is likely to find a Kahr pistol that can fit his or her needs and tastes.

Of course, there is a limit to the number of variations available in a production handgun. For example, all Kahr pistols have the same basic design. In addition, they all have slides machined from 416 series stainless steel; low bore axis to reduce felt recoil; striker-fired ignition system; smooth double-action-only (DAO) trigger that breaks at approximately 6 pounds; striker block safety; offset feed ramp that reduces slide width; and a slim profile grip. The net result is a very flat semi-auto that tends not to print through a shirt or pocket.

CW380 & PM9

It would take many pages to describe every possible Kahr model. Therefore, I asked my friends at the Florida Gun Exchange to go through their inventory and provide a Kahr in each centerfire caliber to give you some idea of the range of variability available in Kahr’s lineup.

The CW380 is a Value Series pistol in .380 ACP that’s only 3.9 inches tall, 4.96 inches long and 0.75 inches wide. It has a 2.58-inch barrel with conventional rifling. It holds six shots in its magazine and one in the chamber. An optional seven-shot magazine with a grip extension is also available. The pistol weighs only 11.5 ounces with the empty flush-fitting magazine in place. These dimensions make it the smallest and lightest Kahr, and a natural for pocket carry. White bar-dot sights come standard, and tritium sights are available.

Part of the Premium Series, the 9mm PM9 is 4 inches tall, 5.42 inches long and 0.9 inches wide at the slide. This pistol has a 3.1-inch barrel, which, given the 9mm’s pressure curve, gives up very little in velocity and bullet energy to a 4-inch-barreled gun. It’s ammunition capacity with the flush-fitting magazine is 6+1 rounds. An available extended magazine with a finger extension holds one more round for a maximum capacity of eight shots. The PM9 is a bit larger than the CW380. However, it comes in at a very light 15.9 ounces with an unloaded flush-fitting magazine. The standard pistol comes with Kahr’s white bar-dot sights; however, the PM9 shown has optional night sights.

CM40 & CM45

The CM40 is a Value Series .40 S&W that has the same dimensions as the PM9, except the slide is only slightly wider at 0.94 inches. Given the wider slide and larger diameter of its 3.1-inch barrel, the weight of this .40-caliber pistol is 1 ounce more than the PM9 with the flush-fitting magazine in the gun. However, 17.7 ounces is still very light for a pistol chambered in this powerful caliber. Because of the larger diameter of the .40 S&W cartridge, this pistol’s flush-fitting magazine holds one less round than that of the PM9; however, Kahr also makes an extended six-round magazine with a finger extension, giving a CM40 with an extended magazine a total capacity of seven shots.

This Value Series CM45 in .45 ACP is the largest of Kahr’s “Micro” pistols. It is 5.79 inches long, 4.49 inches tall and has a slide width of 1.01 inches. The barrel is 3.14 inches long. Weighing 19.3 ounces with the flush-fitting magazine in place, it is also the heaviest of the CM-series Kahrs. This increase in size is due to the larger architecture of the .45 ACP cartridge and the fact that Kahr has kept the capacity of the CM45 the same as the CM40. As with the other three pistols described here, there is an optional extended magazine with a grip extension.

Range Testing

I had a chance to shoot a CM40 some time ago. I found it to be a handy little pistol that was both reliable and accurate. Despite its small size and short sight radius, the little pistol could be counted on to consistently make headshots at 7 yards and center torso hits at 15 yards. The .40 S&W recoil was surprisingly mild due to the low bore axis of the pistol and the ergonomic shape of the grip. And this pistol’s ability to deliver rapid hits on target at close range was very impressive in light of the .40 S&W’s reputation for recoil. In CQB situations, it would be a formidable tool for neutralizing a threat.

As with the 9mm., the fast pressure curve of the .40 S&W cartridge allowed the CM40 to deliver velocities only about 10 percent below the velocities expected from a full-sized pistol with a 4-inch barrel. This clearly gives the 9mm and .40 S&W an advantage over cartridges that operate at lower pressures when it comes to short-barreled handguns. This ability to conserve velocity and energy in short barrels pays off in bullet expansion. Expansion tests I conducted indicated that every hollow-point bullet fired from the CM40 expanded fully. Overall, the CM40 was an impressive pocket pistol that delivered more stopping power than a traditional snub-nose .38 in a slimmer, trimmer and, in some cases, lighter package.

Concept Kahrs

In 2017, Kahr Arms introduced some additional features on some of the compact pistols, which means that there will be even more choices for the consumer. Four models—the CM9093TU3, CW3833TU3, CT3833TU3 and CM4543TU3—boast three-dot sights; Pachmayr Tactical Grip Gloves and tungsten Cerakote-finished slides; slide stop; and triggers. Given the past success of Kahr’s pistols, their quality, reliability and the company’s continued commitment to provide new choices to its customers, it’s safe to say that these compact Kahrs won’t be driving off into the sunset anytime soon.

Kahr CW380, PM9, CM40 & CM45 Specs

Manufacturer Kahr CW380 Kahr PM9 Kahr CM40 Kahr CM45
Caliber .380 ACP 9mm .40 S&W .45 ACP
Barrel 2.58 inches 3.1 inches 3.1 inches 3.14 inches
OA Length 4.96 inches 5.42 inches 5.47 inches 5.79 inches
Weight 11.5 ounces (empty) 15.9 ounces (empty) 17.7 ounces (empty) 19.3 ounces (empty)
Grip Polymer Polymer Polymer Polymer
Sights White bar-dot White bar-dot White bar-dot White bar-dot
Action Striker-fired Striker-fired Striker-fired Striker-fired
Finish Matte black, stainless Matte black, stainless Matte black, stainless Matte black, stainless
Capacity 6+1 6+1, 7+1 5+1 5+1
MSRP $419 $810 $460 $460

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This article was originally published in the spring 2017 issue of “Pocket Pistols.” To order a copy, visit

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