The Kahr PM9 Pistol
By Chuck Hawks
Kahr Arms specializes in compact and sub-compact autoloading pistols intended for service and concealed carry purposes. These are not blow-back operated .32s and .380s, but serious caliber (9mm Luger and .40 S&W) locked breech pistols. Kahr claims the best size to caliber ratio in the business. Kahr guns are "Made with pride in the U.S.A."
All of the Kahr double action only (DAO) pistols operate in a similar manner. The key is a "cocking cam trigger" mechanism that employs a cam to both unlock the passive safety and complete cocking and releasing the striker. Kahr describes its pistols as trigger cocking DAO with a locked breech, Browning-type recoil lug, passive striker block and no magazine disconnect.
Mechanically the system is completely different from the famous Glock Safe Action, but the concept is basically the same. Kahr calls their mechanism a "Safe Cam Action" and it is protected by six U.S. patents.
The Kahr cocking cam trigger results in a superior DAO trigger pull that is smooth in operation. Like the Glock, the Kahr is not a true double action pistol, in that if the first pull on the trigger does not fire a cartridge, a second pull accomplishes nothing; the striker must be reset by operating the slide.
Unlike a Glock, there is no safety blade in the front of the trigger. The movement of the Kahr's trigger is long and inherently safe, like that of a double action revolver. In fact, in operation the Kahr's trigger feels much like the trigger of a slicked-up double action revolver.
At this time the smallest and lightest of the Kahr offerings is the PM9. Kahr describes this as a "Micro compact double action only polymer frame model."
The PM9 is a 9x19 caliber pistol with a textured polymer frame. Customers have the option of a matte silver stainless steel slide, or a blackened (Black Diamond) stainless steel slide. The pistol chosen for this review is the silver and black version of the PM9, stock #PM9093A, which to my eyes is the most attractive option. I think it is a rather good looking little pistol. Like other polymer framed pistols, the PM9 has a top heavy feel with the magazine removed; the balance is noticeably improved with a full magazine in place.
UMC/Remington 115 grain FMJ and Winchester "white box" 115 grain JHP Personal Protection loads were used for testing with little or no discernable difference in group size, although the UMC ammunition shot considerably higher than the Winchester load. The Winchester ammo, which features a rather aggressive hollow point, is what I would choose for concealed carry.
At the range, 5 shot groups using Winchester ammunition fired from an Outer's Pistol Perch rest struck about 2" above the point of aim. These groups averaged about 4" wide but only 1" in height at 25 yards. This horizontal stringing could have been (and probably was) a product of the rest interacting with my hold on the pistol and the short sight radius of the little Kahr, which amplifies any error in sight alignment.
At a more reasonable 15 yards, 5 shot groups fired two handed over a somewhat rickety table averaged about 3" and were clustered only slightly above the point of aim. The PM9, while certainly no target pistol, delivers satisfactory accuracy for its intended purpose of close range self defense.
I took the opportunity to chronograph the Remington/UMC 115 grain Metal Case factory load in the Kahr and found the average velocity at 10 feet from the muzzle to be 1030 fps with an extreme spread of 42 fps. The advertised velocity of this load is 1145 fps from a 4" barrel, so I was pleasantly surprised by the little gun's performance.
Recoil is sharp, as expected from such a light 9mm pistol, but not actually unpleasant. The muzzle blast from the short barrel is quite noticeable, even wearing "earmuff" type hearing protectors and shooting at the outdoor range that I use for testing guns. Indoors without ear protection it would be pretty deafening. There is considerable muzzle jump, but the PM9 is not a difficult pistol to handle. My subjective impression is that the PM9 is easier to control than a Glock G26, the other sub-compact 9x19 pistol with which I have had a reasonable amount of experience.
In multiple range sessions, reliability has been perfect. The extended magazine is my choice at the range, as the little finger of the strong hand can be hooked around the magazine extension, but the flush base magazine is more easily concealed.
I carried the Kahr PM9 for three months on a daily basis for this review, with perfect satisfaction. It is light, flat and fits neatly in a small fanny pack. Because it is chambered for the 9x19 cartridge, I feel that the PM9 offers a very high level of protection for a pistol of its size and weight.
The PM9 makes an interesting comparison with the alloy-framed Colt Cobra, a 2" .38 Special snubby revolver that I have carried extensively. Both feature double action operation, weigh 16 ounces empty, hold six cartridges, come with decent fixed sights and are similar in size. Lacking the revolver's cylinder, the Kahr is thinner and therefore a bit easier to conceal. On the other hand, while neither is a target pistol, the Colt can be manually cocked and the resultant, light, single-action trigger pull is a definite plus at the 25 yard pistol range. Objectively, I don't think that there is a lot to choose between them and I feel adequately protected when carrying either.
Anyone considering a sub-compact semi-automatic pistol for concealed carry owes it to themselves to check out the Kahr PM9. It is at the top of its class.
Copyright 2004, 2012 by Chuck Hawks. All rights reserved.