Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Kahr CW9

  There are a lot of polymer framed striker fired pistols on the market today, and it's hard to decide what to pick. Some obviously have a clear purpose, while others such as the Glock 19 can fill just about any need.
  The Kahr CW9 is a lot like that. It's small enough for CCW, and that is obviously the role for which it's intended. It is, however, large enough for home defense and with a 7+1 magazine capacity it should serve well in that role.

  I included a picture of the CW9 alongside a Ruger LCR.  Most of us have shot, owned, or at least handled  2" snubbies, so the size comparison should be familiar. Some may find themselves deciding between a small frame revolver and a semi automatic for their self defense needs.
  Once again... most of us are familiar with 2" snub nosed revolvers, but few people actually enjoy shooting them. A lot of us own them, carry them, or keep them at hand for home defense. Based upon what I see at the range, I would say that the majority of gun owners don't shoot them a lot. This is largely because they're harder to use due to the short sighting radius, small grips and recoil. We all like fun guns and nice little groups, so these snubbies don't make it out to the range like their larger brethren. Most new gun owners will simply hate shooting 2" revolvers.
  I don't think that will be a problem with the 9mm handgun pictured above. The CW9 is a lightweight small-medium sized pistol. Unlike a J frame (and I know the LCR isn't a J frame) revolver, the Kahr is a pleasure to shoot.

  The grip reminds me a lot of a M1911's. The shape and feel is similar, although the frame is of course a bit shorter and more narrow. I have medium sized hands and have no problem getting all of my fingers on the gun, when the mag is inserted. As you see above, the magazines have an extension for your pinkie, and the pistol's grip fits small to medium sized hands pretty well. The 7 rnd mags are shown. An 8 rnd magazine is available, and is slightly longer.

  The trigger is double action only (DAO), with a long 7lb pull. I generally hate DAO triggers, but I don't mind it on this Kahr. It's very smooth, and consistent throughout the entire pull. Those that shoot revolvers will find it similar to their wheelgun's trigger.
  I will say, however, that the trigger has a long reset. You'll have to let it almost all of the way back out after each shot. After the first box or two of ammo, I had no problems with the trigger reset when shooting fast.
  The controls are what you would expect. The trigger, slide lock, and magazine release are all where they should be. The ergonomics are very good on the CW9, and I feel that it's a very comfortable pistol to handle.   As with the vast majority of shooters, most of my range time is with full sized handguns. Ammo is expensive, and they're what I enjoy the most.  Regardless of that, I find this small-medium sized semi auto comfortable and fun to shoot. I would estimate that it gets shot at least every 4-6 weeks.

  The recoil is not bad with this lightweight gun. Beginners are going to feel it, but I doubt that they'll be unable to deal with it. Those that shoot regularly won't even think about the recoil. I find that it kicks just enough to be interesting to shoot, but not hard enough to effect accuracy or enjoyability. +P's aren't even bad in this gun. Follow up shots are reasonably fast, but I have to admit that I find myself able to shoot quicker with pistols that have shorter trigger pulls and resets. That's the price that you sometimes pay for the added safety of a long DAO trigger.

  The magazine release was a worry when this gun was first purchased. The button was very stiff, and the magazines didn't drop free when the release was pressed. It loosened up within a few hundred rounds, and the mags now drop free without any problem. I have learned that others have had the same experience.
   I've read that some people have had issues with the magazine release being accidentally pressed while shooting, or while carrying their CCW gun.  One gentleman wrote about his pistol losing it's mag when he was driving/putting on his seat belt. He later found himself walking around a store without his Glock's magazine. It was laying on his front seat.  I haven't had any issues with the CW9's magazine release being accidentally depressed, or losing a mag. It could be luck, or maybe it's my choice in holsters. Perhaps it's a good gun design, or maybe it's the love handles locking the magazine in place. We'll never know. It's worth mentioning that none of the stories that I mentioned above delt with Kahrs.

  The CW9 weighs a little under 16oz and carries very well. I generally use a Crossbreed Supertuck, or Galco Classic Lite shoulder holster. Both work well. I also have a Galco Stow-In-Go IWB holster, but I find that I need to wear an extra layer unless I want the gun to print. Retention is very good with all of these holsters, but I will admit that I'm not doing a lot of running, jumping, climbing, etc. If you're carrying at work, and your job requires these motions, then you may want something different.

Now for the factory specs:
Caliber:    9mm
Length:    5.9"
Height:    4.5"
Weight:   Pistol - 15.8oz    Magazine - 1.9oz
Capacity:    7+1 (8rnd mags are also available)
Trigger:    DOA (About 7lbs)
Barrel:    3.6"
Sights:    White bar dot combination. Rear sight is driftable
Grip:    Polymer
Slide:    Matte stainless

  Other than the CW9, I don't have a lot of experience with Kahr pistols. I've always liked their guns, but they were priced out of my range for what they are. The CW9 was designed for the more budget minded, and there are some cost saving steps in it's production. There's less milling on the slide, the model No. and name are laser engraved (instead of the roll mark on the other pistols), it ships with one magazine, there are MIM parts,  etc. I feel that this is still an attractive gun; the cost saving measures take nothing away from it.

  The sights consist of a pinned front sight with a white dot. The rear sight is driftable with a white bar in the center. I wasn't really crazy about this setup when I first bought the gun. I found over time that it does work well, and is pretty good for defensive use. The sights line up quickly and are visible in most cases.  So when are they not visible? How about when trying to get white dots to line up on white paper plates.
  The targets above were all shot offhand at 15yds with WWB.   The right plate was shot at slow fire without a break in shooting. The center target was shot a bit faster at about 1 rnd per second and the left target was shot at a more rapid pace.

  The target at the left was shot at 7 yds. One round was fired every 1-2 seconds, and this is the first 3 targets after a 2 month break from shooting my CCW guns.

  The target below was shot a couple of weeks later.  Three mags with 5 rounds each were shot. One round per second was fired, and the target was set at 8 yards.
  I generally prefer the 3" orange centers on paper plates as targets (not because I'm cheap). The contrast really helps these middle aged eyes.

  The pistol comes in this rather unattractive and otherwise useless plastic case. A box is a box. If it saves me a few dollars, I don't care if it's this case that ends up unused at the top of my closet or if it's one of Springfield's truly outstanding gun boxes sitting up there.
The gun comes with the usual literature, one magazine (no ammo despite my pics) and a ridiculous locking device.

  I find the reliability of this pistol to be excellent.  Kahr has a recommended 200 rnd break in period for this gun. I don't consider this unreasonable.  My Kimber's break in period... ah... that's a discussion for another day.
  I have over 1,000 rnds through the weapon at this point. The majority has been 9mm 115gr in the usual flavors (WWB, Federal, Blazer, Blazer Brass and Remington). Most of it has been target loads, but as this is one of my carry guns I have also shot several boxes of Speer Gold Dot 124gr  JHP +P.
  I had two malfunctions in the first 100 rnds using my one 8 rnd magazine. There have been no issues with the other four 7 rnd mags.

  The slide serrations are very good. They work. That's usually all that needs to be said, but I've had pistols in the past (Browning Hi Power) that had really mediocre slide serrations. This usually isn't thought about in the gun store, but it's noticed when you're showing your wife and/or girlfriend the handgun, and she can't rack it.  Poorly designed slide serrations also become apparent when you have wet or oily hands.
  The Kahr CW9 was priced all over the map in my area. I am truly lucky to have so many gun stores so close to my home. The CW9 was priced from $420-$480 at my LGS, and averaged $400-$440 at the gun shows. I purchased mine for $400, and felt like this was reasonable. They are currently running $369 at Bud's.
  I do feel that I should point out once again that the gun only comes with one magazine. That's just ridiculous with a semi automatic. Extra magazines for this gun are few and far between in my area. had the best pricing when I ordered extras. They are currently priced at $34 (8 rnd) and $30 (7 rnd). I've ordered from them a few times in the past and will definitely use them again.

  Disassembly is pretty straightforward. It's harder than a Glock, but easier than a M1911. I won't go into detail. The manual does a good job, and anyone with at least mediocre hand strength should be able to easily disassemble and assemble the gun.

  As I said earlier, this Kahr has a 200 rnd break in period.

  The manufacturer states that you should not load the pistol by dropping a round directly into the chamber (a normal warning). This can damage the extractor. Only load the gun with a magazine. With more and more beginners getting into owning guns and CCW, this is worth mentioning.

  The manual also states that you should load the pistol by locking the slide to the rear, inserting the magazine, and then pushing down on  the slide stop (Kahr calls it a slide stop). Simply pulling the slide to the rear and releasing it may cause the slide not to fully go into battery (so sayeth the manufacturer).
  I generally alternate loading the weapon by racking the slide on a new magazine, and also using the slide stop to release the slide (as the manufacturer recommends). I'll use the overhand grip on my off hand, and sometimes use my shooting hand to release the slide. As this is a self defense weapon, I feel that any and all methods should be practiced.
  I wouldn't use this for a self defense gun if I was limited in loading the firearm in the way that the manufacturer recommends. That's just my opinion. To each his own.
  I do not however rack the slide off of belts, holsters, tables, etc. I'm just not that tacticool, and feel that it's going to be a lost cause anyway due to the stiffness of the recoil spring and small rear sight.

  I believe that the manufacturer's warning is intended for those that may not pull the slide all of the way to the rear when chambering a round. It could also be intended for those that ride the slide forward when loading their weapon. I've seen a few people new to guns do both when shooting this Kahr.

  I'll be honest, and admit that the two malfunctions that I've had with this firearm were when I was slingshotting the slide (maybe the manufacturer was right?). They were both in the first 100 rnds of the break in period. Of course I was using my 8 round magazine when the feeding problems occurred. I'm blaming it on the magazine as all of my 7 rounders seem to behave without any issues. My 8 round mag has been a problem child, and really only functions reliably with 7 rounds on board (won't seat with 8). It is a range magazine only. I have not seen any information regarding others having issues with 8 round magazines. I guess I'm just lucky.

  BTW, this weapon doesn't get cleaned a lot. That's a bad practice for a self defense weapon, and I had admitting it in public. I felt it was worth mentioning that this gun will run fine without being spotless.

  I looked hard the the Glock 26, and Kel-Tec PF9 when I bought this gun. The Glock felt a bit chunky for IWB carry, and I didn't care for the feel. I know, I know....heresy!!! Glock fanboys are probably foaming at the mouth right now.
  I like the Kel-Tec, and they seem like a good value. I've heard good things about them from a friend, and they can be found for $260 in my area. I just wanted the Kahr. It felt more like "Quality" when handling the firearm. The weapon just felt more substantial. Pick one up, and you'll see what I mean.  As I buy waaaay too many guns, I'm sure that I'll have a PF9 follow me home sooner or later. The CW9 was my first choice among small striker fired carry guns.

  The CW9 has an internal passive striker block, and a long double action only trigger. I'm satisfied with this setup for my carry gun. There is no magazine safety, and I prefer not to have them on my handguns. Actually it would have been more accurate to say that I wouldn't have bought this gun if it had a magazine safety. That's my preference. To each his own.
  I like a long trigger pull, and passive safety for my carry guns. This will be a deal breaker for those that prefer a safety setup like Glock uses.

So in summary, I recommend this gun based on the last year, and the 1,000 or so rnds that I've put through it.  It's accurate when I do my part, and don't try to crank off rounds at white targets using white sights (excuse alert). It's reliable, and it's reasonably affordable. The pistol is fun to shoot, and can crossover very easily from being a CCW gun to a home defense gun.
  Edit:   It's been well over a year since I first wrote this review. I've done a lot of shooting in that time, and felt it was worth updating this post.
  First of all, I should talk about reliability. It's still a very reliable handgun. I've put a few more boxes of Speer Gold Dots through it without any issues. The bulk of what I shoot, however, is much less expensive. WWB and Blazer are usually the best that I use at the range. Tulammo and Ultramax is shot more often than not. Even the cheapest ammo seems to run fine in this gun (I've had other, more expensive 9mms choke on Ultramax).

  I would recommend getting the proper magazine pouch if this weapon is used for concealed carry. I have seen some people just throw magazines into pockets, or in knife pouches. Both methods work, are better than not having a spare mag, and may be necessary for gun owners on a tight budget. The problem is that the top round in the CW9's magazine will work it's way out if the mag isn't in a snug pouch. If you carry a magazine in a pocket then you WILL find yourself with a loose round in that pocket at the end of the day. You'll probably have another round hanging partially out of the feed lips. I base this opinion on the four 7 round magazines that I've used.
  I've seen this happen a lot with M1911s too. It's not that big of a deal. Just buy the right gear.

  I've handled (but not shot) the Nano, LC9, PF9, and XDs over the last year. I still prefer the weight and feel of the Kahr. The XDs is not really comparable as it's over $150 more expensive.
  A friend of mine purchased a S&W Shield (9mm) before Christmas. I'm very impressed with that weapon, and it would be my pick if I didn't have the CW9. While I much prefer the trigger on the Shield, I shoot the Kahr a lot better. It's funny that the S&W owner also shoots the CW9 better than his own weapon despite having run about four hundred rounds through the Shield. He actually offered to trade guns with me after a range trip.

  The Shield is often compared to the XDs for concealed carry. There's over $150 difference in the prices between these two handguns. Both were released during a similar time frame, but I think that the prices prohibit comparing them. I'd compare the Shield to something in the same price range (like the CW9). It's coming.

  I've recently added grip tape from Powder River Precision to my XDMs. I have considered adding something similar to the Kahr from Talon Grips, but am undecided since I often carry the CW9 against my skin. There's been no problem keeping a firm grip on the frame, and I haven't had any problems with shirts sticking to the plastic factory grip (as may sometimes happen with rubber). As the price for the grip tape is under $20, I'll probably try and update this post in a few months.

  I plan to add night sights to the pistol over the next week or two. An update will be done after a few range trips.

   As I stated earlier, I feel that the Kahr CW9 is a great pistol, and still believe that it's a very good crossover gun for both home defense and CCW roles.

  If you can conceal and grip a semi automatic with a higher capacity then that would obviously be  preferable. You should always go as big as you can.
 As for those looking for a medium sized pistol with a single stack magazine... you can do a hell of a lot worse than the Kahr.

   This target looks a little better than what was posted in 2012. A little contrast goes a long way when you have middle aged eyes.

8rnd mag shown at bottom right

More Gun And Knife Reviews On This Blog

UPDATE:   It's Oct 2017, and I still have the same Kahr. I probably shoot this more than any other gun that I own, and would not part with this gun. While the grip texture is better than almost everything else that I've used (Springfield still has better texturing), some Talon grips were a great upgrade.
I've added some night sights from Dawson Precision, and a Crimson Trace laser. My holsters come from Crossbreed.
Very few people that try this pistol are able to shoot it well without a lot of practice. DAO triggers are hard for most newbies to master.
This gun is ridiculously reliable. I generally wait until I've shot about 500 rounds before cleaning it. The feed ramp gets a wipe down, and a few drops of oil are put on the rails after each range trip. That's not a substitute for cleaning, or a good practice. 
Anyway, I have a LCR, Shield, and M&P9c. The LCR gets pocket carried when I'm in a lazy mood. The CW9 gets about 80% of the carry time when I'm using a pistol.