Some years ago, when the Kahr 9mm pistol was introduced, I obtained and tested an example as soon as possible. In doing so, I found a reliable handgun with excellent features. A smooth Double Action Only trigger, excellent machine work, and a truly compact frame made for a trend-setting pistol. The design was both fresh and intelligent.
The pistol featured an angled feed ramp that made for a more compact handgun and more room in the frame to accommodate the trigger action. Recently, Kahr has expanded the line to .40 and .45 caliber handguns and different slide lengths. It moved seamlessly into the polymer frame world as well.
A few years ago, Kahr introduced the .380 ACP series pistols. These little guns, like the other Kahr handguns, shoot better than they should, considering their size. My personal version features a tungsten-finished slide, polymer frame, and excellent all around workmanship.
The original pistol featured a six-round magazine and very short grip. It is truly compact, but I like the newer seven-shot magazine and longer grip better. While the standard pistol is certainly concealable, I like the CT380 Tungsten Packed version for my personal use. With a 2.5-inch barrel, this piece tips the scales at less than 11 ounces.
The taller grip frame helps me with hand fit, but don’t let me discourage you from choosing the smaller piece for pocket carry. The grip frame is textured for a solid grip. Adhesion and abrasion are ideal. I really like the pebble grain finish.
The rear grip strap is slightly arched and features serrations along the surface. The trigger surface is smooth—ideal for a carry gun. The sights are well designed for close-quarter battle. Rather than the three-dot pattern, the Kahr sights feature the white bar front and bar rear known as the BAR-DOT. For accurate fire, they work well.
My primary concern with any handgun is reliability. The pistol must feed well. Hand fit is important, but firing performance is most important. Secondary concerns include recoil control, accuracy, and maintenance requirements.
I took the pistol to the range with a good supply of ammunition. Most were half or quarter boxes left over previous testing. These included JHP loads from Cor Bon, Gorilla, Fiocchi, RIP, and Hornady’s XTP and Critical Defense loads. I had, perhaps, 160 rounds total. I clocked several over the Competition Electronics Chronograph. I was surprised at the relatively high velocity.
The Gorilla Ammunition 95-grain JHP went 880 fps, and the Hornady 90-grain XTP, 938 fps. That is fast from such a short barrel. I concentrated my work on man-sized targets at no more than 7 yards, firing with the one-hand point and from the retention position. The Kahr ate everything fed into the two supplied magazines.
The pistol comes on target quickly. The sights are good, and the trigger is very smooth. Recoil is modest, largely due to the grip design. While the .380 ACP cartridge isn’t a powerhouse, it is a light handgun, and you must affirm the grip to control the piece.
The Kahr was actually a fun gun to fire. It is accurate enough to engage small targets to 15 yards or so. A pistol that is enjoyable to fire and accurate will be fired more often. The sights are well regulated for 90- to 95-grain loads.
I have taken the pistol to the range on several occasions and practically exhausted my cache of .380 ACP with some 350 cartridges expended. The pistol is clearly reliable. I have fired the pistol for accuracy, off hand, at 10 yards, firing seven rounds as quickly as I could regain the sights during trigger reset. On several occasions, I have fired a seven-shot 4-inch group. The pistol is reliable, accurate, and seems to have low maintenance demands, as it was not lubricated, save just before the initial evaluation.
A caution that applies to all Kahr pistols, when loading, lock the slide to the rear, insert a loaded magazine, and drop the slide to properly set the trigger. If you insert a loaded magazine and rack the slide, the trigger may not reset properly.
This seems a top-flight handgun. For pocket carry with a .380 ACP handgun, this pistol would be at the top of the list.
What is the smallest caliber you carry for self-defense? Have you fired a Kahr? Share your answers in the comment section.
Bob Campbell is a former peace officer and published author with over 40 years combined shooting and police and security experience. Bob holds a degree in Criminal Justice. Bob is the author of the books, The Handgun in Personal Defense, Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry, The 1911 Automatic Pistol, The Gun Digest Book of Personal Protection and Home Defense, The Shooters Guide to the 1911, The Hunter and the Hunted, and The Complete Illustrated Manual of Handgun Skills. His latest book is Dealing with the Great Ammo Shortage. He is also a regular contributor to Gun Tests, American Gunsmith, Small Arms Review, Gun Digest, Concealed Carry Magazine, Knife World, Women and Guns, Handloader and other publications. Bob is well-known for his firearm testing.
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