Kahr Arms is building an empire out of a single innovative pistol design. Their first pistol, the K9, featured six US patents covering the locking, firing, and extraction design elements, and the company now lists 70 different models all based on the same features. All of them are made in Massachusetts using state-of-the-art CNC machining technology. Kahr bought Auto Ordnance (the Tommy gun people) in 1999, and in 2010 bought up Magnum Research of Desert Eagle fame. The company’s purchasing power comes from their President and CEO, Justin Moon, who is the son of Sun Myung Moon. Yes, THAT Reverend Moon, who founded the Unification Church.
Justin Moon started shooting at age 14, got his first license to carry at age 18, and wasn’t real thrilled with the choices available in an ultra-compact 9mm pistol. He decided to design and build his own, and the rest is history. The Kahr I have in my hand right now is the PM45, the smallest .45acp I’ve ever seen. It is striker fired, like a Glock or M&P, using a cam system to finish cocking the partially pre-cocked striker. This gives it an incredibly smooth double action type trigger pull, but like the Para LDA trigger you can’t re-strike the primer a second time by simply pulling the trigger—once the striker hits the primer, the trigger system has to be reset by moving the slide. I’m a single action kind of guy myself. I like a crisp 1911 trigger or a Glock with a 3.5lb connector, but I have to admit that in an ultra-compact defensive gun with no external safety, a longer trigger pull is safer. If it’s a smooth, light double action pull like on this gun, I can still hit my target quickly and consistently out to 25 yards or so, which is what the P45 is for.
Moon’s little gun includes a few very clever design features designed to make it as slim and short as possible. Most interesting to me is the offset barrel design—looking at the gun with the slide open from behind, the feed ramp is actually positioned to the left inside the slide, with the trigger mechanism next to it on the right. How did they make that work? Kahrs have an excellent reputation for reliability so obviously the feed ramp still does its job despite the offset. This lowers the height of the barrel over the shooter’s hand, known as bore axis, and makes the P45’s recoil kick to the rear instead of flipping the muzzle up. The barrel ramp is polished beautifully right out of the box, and the barrel uses polygonal rifling that looks a lot like Glock rifling. These guns have a reputation for outstanding accuracy due to the polygonal rifling and the tight tolerances made possible by CNC machining every metal component.
The polymer frame is molded with sharp raised squares on the front and back strap. This reverse checkering design really grabs your hand aggressively—considering the small size, light weight, and powerful caliber of this gun I think wearing shooting gloves might be appropriate if I were to take a high-round-count class using the PM45, but in a stressful self-defense situation I’m sure I would appreciate the extra grip. The dual recoil springs are super stout, although I can’t find the spec anywhere I guesstimate that it takes between 22-25lbs of force to pull back the slide on this gun. Kahr recommends replacing these powerful springs after only 1000 rounds or risk having the polymer frame battered to death by the stainless steel slide. There’s always a price to be paid when putting a major caliber in a tiny, polymer framed pistol, and Kahr has obviously decided to let their recoil springs be the part that takes the punishment. The sights are metal (are you paying attention, Glock?), big enough to be useful, and feature a white dot on the front sight and a white post on the rear sight for a “lollipop” sight picture.
The Kahr comes in a small, foam lined black plastic case with two 5-round magazines, owner’s manual and assorted paperwork, and of course a trigger lock. Kahr pistols are not cheap. Priced in the $650 range, the little PM45 costs about as much as some good quality 1911s. Kahr makes no apologies, their website proudly and honestly states that they don’t cut corners to build their guns to a “price point,” they simply build the highest quality gun possible using the technology available. When you are trusting your life to a tiny, lightweight polymer pistol packed with .45acp hollowpoints, that’s a reassuring philosophy from the folks who built that gun.