The Kahr CW9

Several decades ago, a new company emerged offering first class handguns designed for concealed carry. While makers come and go Kahr has survived and succeeded based on a superior product.

Kahr CW9 on white background
A clean and attractive design with much to recommend, the CW9 is a good 9mm for personal protection.

The advantages of the original K9 include a butter-smooth trigger action, good sights and a compact frame. The Kahr is not a cut-down service pistol; it is a purpose-designed compact handgun.

  • The Kahr is a single-column-magazine handgun designed for concealed carry.
  • The grip frame is small enough for concealed carry and large enough to fit most hands well.
  • Details of the design included an offset feed ramp that gave room for the trigger action while ensuring feed reliability.
  • The pistol earned a reputation for reliability and accuracy.

As I stated at the time, the Kahr showed the Europeans, Gun Valley could make a quality firearm. Those who recognize performance appreciate the Kahr. There are no true drawbacks to the Kahr with its steel frame and slide design. Quality machine work and skilled labor is not inexpensive. The price rose to the point that sales were inhibited in today’s market. Kahr addressed these concerns in several ways.

  • Polymer frame technology was adapted to the Kahr design. (Kahr still manufactures the original along with many other models). A lightweight durable polymer frame is a good choice for a compact concealed carry handgun.
  • Kahr eliminated some of the machine steps in finishing the slide. While the result may be more angular, the CW9 remains an attractive handgun.
  • The sights are similar to the original; however, the front sight is staked in rather than fitted into a dovetail groove. The goal was to retain the appearance, performance and reliability of the original handgun in a less expensive package. The result is a credible handgun with much to recommend.
The CW 9 fits most hands well and is a well-balanced handgun.
The CW 9 fits most hands well and is a well-balanced handgun.

When examining the pistol, we see the cocking serrations are adequate and the slight bevel at the front of the slide adds ease in holstering. The rear sight’s design gives the shooter a quick reference in firing and it works well. The front post is easy to pick up in rapid combat drills.

The grip frame allows good adhesion while maintaining the firing grip and is not uncomfortably abrasive. The combination of pebble grain and checkering on the grip makes for a pleasant hold.

The front strap and rear strap are comfortable and make for good retention even with sweaty or cold hands. The cross section of the grip is narrow; designed for concealed carry. The magazine release is well designed, unobtrusive and allows for rapid magazine changes.

Firing Tests

I examined, field stripped and lubricated the Kahr CW9 prior to firing. There were no excess tool marks and overall the level of fit and finish is high.

  • The trigger action is smooth, breaking at 6.5 pounds of compression.
  • The action is clean with little take-up or excess motion.
124-grain Speer Gold Dot
The 124-grain Speer Gold Dot is an excellent choice for all around personal defense .

I fired the pistol with an eclectic supply of ammunition. In my experience, short slide pistols may malfunction with some loads and may be less reliable overall. This was not the case with the CW9.

In firing a number of loads, the pistol always gave reliable function. The primary resource used in this evaluation was the Federal American Eagle 115-grain 9mm. The pistol never failed to feed, chamber, fire or eject in firing 100 rounds of this loading.

In firing at man size targets at five, seven and 10 yards, the pistol proved lively in the hand, quickly coming to bear and providing a trained shooter with fast hits. The trigger reset is so fast, you do not have to think about it.

  1. Press.
  2. Allow reset.
  3. Realign the sights and you are ready for another shot.


Kahr CW 9 Slide Lock and Magazine Release
The CW 9’s controls, including the slide lock and the magazine release, are well designed for rapid use.

Kahr recommends a 200-round break in period. The CW9 or any other Kahr may fail to feed, the slide may short cycle or there may be a light firing pin strike during this break-in period.

We experienced none of these break in malfunctions although this warning must be respected. Also, and this one is important, do not lock the magazine in place and then rack the slide. In order to be certain the trigger resets for the next shot, or the first shot…

  1. Lock the slide to the rear.
  2. Insert a loaded magazine.
  3. Drop the slide allowing the first cartridge to feed into the chamber.

This is a desirable program for a number of striker-fired handguns.

Other loads

Kahr CW9 in Action
Even in one-hand fire, the CW 9 is controllable.

I also fired full magazines of several 9mm personal defense loads, including:

Function was never an issue. The CW9 fed, chambered, fired and ejected every load.

Among the many compact 9mm handguns I have fired, the CW9 has high hit probability. This is an easy handgun to like and a compact pistol accurate to 25 yards or more. A combination of good sights, a comfortable grip and a smooth trigger action add up to good performance. The pistol’s muzzle flip and recoil are what you would expect from an 18 ounce 9mm—certainly nothing painful.

The Kahr CW9 is comparable to any 9mm compact and superior to many.

Have you fired the Kahr CW9? Share your results and experiences in the comment section.

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (8)

  1. I do not own the CW9 because I have a life time aversion to 9mm handguns, along with the .380, the .32, the .25 and so forth. I do not expect to change anyone’s opinion in that regard but only offer it to explain my not being able to comment directly on the particular pistol reviewed. However I do own and value a different Kahr and it is one gun I have never regretted purchasing and never considered selling.
    I do have a PM40 (if memory serves). In any event, it is polymer .40 S & W Kahr and it has been a wonderful gun ever since its purchase. I bought it years ago, when the gun was new and have owned it ever since. It has to have over 1,000 rounds at the range. Possibly over 2,000. Who counts? I just take it to the range and shoot. Given the years I have owned it and the number of times it has been to the range, it could easily have over 2,000 rounds through it. It never fails and is very accurate. Amazingly so.
    It is a hand full in the .40 S&W 180 gr loads. I have shot as many as 200 rounds at one outing and cannot recommend that but it is obviously doable.
    The gun is amazingly accurate, loses itself almost in my pocket, does not feel unduly small in my hand, although the frame and grip is narrow.
    My favorite pistol is and will be the 1911 in .45 ACP but even in my Commander length, it will not disappear during the summer in hot weather. The Kahr does and I will continue to value it. When the 1911 just will not do, the Kahr steps up and fills the void very admirably.
    The two pistols are nothing alike and yet I am very fond of both and will not part with either.
    While I am opinionated, critical and strong willed by nature, I cannot find any fault with my Kahr. Of course, it would not be for everyone but it suits me completely. There is nothing I dislike except I would like a few more rounds in the magazine. However, I realize that is unrealistic in such a small package.
    It is a great gun, supremely reliable and quite accurate. I seem to shoot it significantly more accurately than my Air Weight S & W .357 titanium cylinder revolver.

  2. I had a CW9 but found I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with it; just could not get used to the hard trigger pull, especially after shooting my 1911. Sold it and never looked back.

  3. I was with you right up tp the point where you claimed the trigger reset was so fast you did not have to think about it. I own several kahrs and this is their shortcoming. The reset is the opposite of fast, it is insanely long. If you like a da revolver pull,you’ll enjoy kahr. But if you want a quick follow up like you can get with, say a glock or 1911 or tuned cz, you will hate the kahrs long reset. I find my times on steel are a little slower to the 1st shot with the kahr, but much slower for subsequent shots. Attempting to make those follow up shots faster just begets poor accuracy as the long pull makes holding the sights steady difficult, especially with the smallish grip. I still like the kahr for concealability, but its not the best fighting semi auto by any stretch, unless you give credit to the fact the kahr is most likely to be carried when better defensive guns would be left home

  4. First saw this at a gun show, I have large hands and have a problem with almost all the compacts but have no problem getting a full hand grip with this one. This is a real shooter, smooth and reliable as well as very accurate for a compact. I love my CW9.

  5. I find it funny that most major manufacturers have recently “discovered” the market for single stack, striker fired polymer frame concealed handguns. Sig, Glock, S&W and others are pushing their versions like they just invented the wheel. My CW 9 has been my primary carry weapon for years and fits my needs perfectly. I did put a fiber optic front sight on board and lightened the trigger spring. I also have a rubber grip sleeve that adds some width to the grip because I have large hands. Although some auto pistol snobs complain about the trigger pull, the long smooth trigger pull is very similar to a good revolver. There is no need for another safety system due to that. Just make sure you don’t try to ride the trigger to find the reset during the release, because you have to release all the way to reset. Easy to shoot even with +P ammo and very accurate, it is the perfect concealed pistol, which is why it is being imitated.

  6. Spot on Bob. While not a fan of compacts, I especially like this gun. accurate, well made, easy enough to conceal and fits well in my hand. Its a keeper and I carry it while working outdoors or traveling at night. Great review. Thanks.

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