Range Reports

Kahr K9: Excellence in Design

A black Kahr K9, muzzle pointing right, on a gray to white background. The focus is on the excellent machine work.

Introduced in 1995, and originally conceived as an off-duty gun for peace officers, many of the features of the Kahr K9 reflect the design envelope for a compact but effective handgun. Designed for easy carry, the pistol is accurate at longish personal-defense range. The K9 is a substantial handgun with a good heft. While there are lighter handguns for concealed carry use in 9mm caliber, few are as comfortable to fire as the Kahr 9. With proper concealment gunleather, the K9 conceals and carries as well as lighter handguns.

The K9 is forged and machined, not shot from a mold. (There are modern polymer frame Kahr pistols, however, the K9 is the original steel version.) The K9 is an ideal concealed carry pistol that American gun owners have embraced. It is popular with experienced peace officers; however, the civilian market has proven much larger.

The pistol is an interesting confluence of design.

  • The K9 uses the Browning locked breech design with the modern, angled camming surfaces and other improvements.
  • The pistol is striker fired.
  • The double-action only (DAO) trigger both cocks and releases the striker.
  • There is no manual safety.
  • The slide resets the trigger action and there is no restrike capability.
  • The trigger is smooth, controllable, and feels lighter than the 5 3/4 pounds measured on the RCBS registering trigger pull gauge.
The Kahr K9, muzzle facing right on a mostly white background with a gray shadow around the gun.
The K 9 shows the Europeans Americans can get it right!

First Impressions

Smoothness is the first impression when handling the K9 and the second is its compact size and width. The pistol is considerably narrower than the Glock, at only .9-inch across the slide. The feed ramp shows attention to detail. In order to maintain the compact size, the feed ramp angles to one side in order to allow the most compact space to contain the trigger action. The pistol is as snag free as it is hammerless and the slide lock and magazine release are low profile. The sights are excellent bar dot types, with the white outline bar at the rear and a white dot in the front sight.

The grips are pebbled rubber grips, the face of the wide trigger is smooth and the beveled slide at the front makes for easy insertion into a holster. It is possible to bump the rear sight to one side or the other for windage adjustment. The pistol easily field strips simply by unloading the pistol, removing the magazine and bumping the slide stop out to the left.

The Kahr K9 is supplied with two, seven-round magazines. It should be noted that while the theoretical capacity is 7+1, with a round in the chamber and a seven-round magazine, the practical capacity is seven. The pistol should be loaded by locking the slide to the rear, inserting a loaded magazine, and dropping the slide. It is a quirk of the design that by racking the slide to load the magazine you sometimes set the pistol up for a light firing pin strike or a misfeed.

Load seven and you have seven for certain. Justin Moon, the designer, holds several patents related to the pistol. The compactness of the design while maintaining accuracy and reliability cannot be overstated. The innovative design features include a drawbar that lies rather flat allowing a narrower frame. This is partially made possible by the angled feed ramp.

When deploying the Kahr, a few cautions are in order.

  • The pistols are wonderfully reliable, but it pays to change the recoil spring every 2,500 rounds or so. The recoil spring takes a lot of pressure in such a compact short slide pistol with high intensity loads and once it has lost an inch of free length it should be replaced with a premium W C Wolff spring.
  • The striker channel should be kept clean and the striker spring changed every few thousand rounds. The Kahr likes lubrication, which isn’t always true of polymer frame pistols such as the Glock. It isn’t likely to choke and my examples have proven very reliable, but it is wise to clean and lubricate a steel frame gun more often than the low maintenance polymer frame pistols. Most of the Kahr pistols are stainless steel and the pistol illustrated is a blackened stainless steel handgun with a special finish.


A black Kahr K9, muzzle pointing left , on a gray to white background with a silver magazine.
A slim-line magazine aids in keeping the Kahr K9 slim and thin.

Ammunition selection is also important. For practice I use what is affordable and works well. This means remanufactured ammunition much of the time. Black Hills remanufactured is offered in the Blue Box line. This is the same ammunition as the factory new red box load except that there is used brass. The brass is cleaned and inspected before loading and always gives good service. This isn’t “Uncle Sid’s by gosh by the seat of the pants” handloads. They are put up on the same modern machinery as new manufactured loads; they simply represent a great savings by using recycled brass. These loads help me keep the edge in practice sessions. You do not need a hollow point for range use and practice and lead is the least expensive loading.

For personal defense a good, jacketed, hollow-point bullet offering a balance of expansion and penetration is critical. The K9 is controllable with +P loads but you do not have to run +P loads if the recoil is excessive. I have fired and tested most of the current crop of defense-oriented 9mm Luger loadings. The 9mm is enough, but just enough, and demands a well-designed expanding bullet for personal defense.

The cartridge should be reliable above all else and demonstrate a good clean powder burn. Among the top loads in this caliber is the Black Hills 115-grain JHP +P. This loading demonstrates a good balance of expansion and penetration. I like the 115-grain weight in this caliber but also have the greatest respect for the Black Hills 124-grain +P loading. In the short barrel K9, the lighter weight bullet with its higher velocity remains my choice, but the 124-grain +P has much to recommend it.

Possibly the most popular all around 115-grain 9mm among my circle of friends is the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain EXP. Extra Power is the proper name and this hollow-point load is faster than most but not quite in +P pressure territory. However, it is a good trick and a fine loading.

When firing the K9, you must understand the trigger action. To use the double-action only trigger well, a smooth, straight-to-the-rear trigger press is required.

  1. Press the trigger and then release, allowing the trigger to reset.
  2. Allow about the same amount of time for trigger press and trigger reset.
  3. Reacquire the sights in the interval between shots.
The gray haired author, in dark gray t-shirt and ear protection shoots the Kahr K9 into the woods filled with green trees.
The author, not to be shown up by a grandson, tries his hand at the Kahr K9 and finds it good.

The K9 is a surprisingly accurate handgun for its size, with a high degree of intrinsic accuracy. It is up to you, as the shooter, to practice and get the most from the pistol’s potential. In the end the Kahr 9 is a first-class pistol well worth its price.


Average of two, five-shot groups from a barricade firing position at 15 yards. Groups measured in inches.

Load Average Group Size
Black Hills 115 gr. FMJ Remanufactured 3.0 inches
Black Hills 115 gr. JHP +P 2.0 inches
Wolf 124 gr. FMJ 2.65 inches
122 gr. Oregon Trail RNL –WW 231 powder/870 fps (handload) 3.25 inches


Kahr Arms K9
Action Trigger cocking double-action only; lock breech; Browning-type recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
Barrel 3.5 inches, polygonal rifling; 1:10 right hand twist
Caliber 9mm
Overall Height 4.5 inches
Overall Length 6.0 inches
Weight 23.1 ounces, unloaded
Sights Drift adjustable, white bar-dot combat sights; tritium sights optional
Grip Wraparound, textured soft polymer
Capacity 7+1
Magazine 7-round capacity, stainless; 1.9 ounces empty weight
Finish Matte blackened stainless steel (K9094)
Matte stainless steel (K9093)
Polished stainless steel (K9098)

 Have you shot a Kahr K9? Tell us about your experience 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 (9)

  1. Sorry bob I forgot. I really like the K-40 in the Elite 2003, but don’t know if the extra money is worth for me. To much. I did like what I get for the T-40 though. Not sure if it’s to big for CCW.

  2. Hello Bob, I am looking for an all steel pistol other then the 1911 style that I own along with my revolvers. I was thinking about a Kahr in maybe the K-40 or even the T-40 if it is suitable for CCW. I would hate to buy it site unseen as no shops have them in my area. Any thoughts? Thank you!!

  3. The Kahr K9 is one of three Kahrs I own. 2006 purchased a CW40 as a place of business firearm. Big fan of the 40 cal. 2008 purchased the Kahr P40 as a CC weapon. Used both at local range weekly. Never did I have a function issue with either gun. 2010, I had an accident that severly injured my right hand. ( I am right handed) When I was ale to resume range time, I discovered the 40 was not as controllable as it had been because of my loss of hand strength. I purchased the K9 to compensate for this. Over the past five years, I have put 1000’s of rounds through the Kahr K9. IMO, it is truly a great semi-auto pistol which has become a constant companion.

  4. Forgot to mention…I have always kept my Kahr loaded with 7 + 1 in the chamber. One important thing to remember with Kahrs; Never ride the slide home when charging the weapon. Either use the slide release after locking it back to load it or rack it back, let go, and let the slide fly home unassisted.

  5. I bought one of the original Kahr K9s when they first came out as an off-duty/back up gun. It replaced my .380 Walther PPK. Why not have a 9mm when it’s only slightly larger than the .380? It was totally reliable right out of the box and served me well. Never a hiccup. In 1998 Kahr came out with the improved model. The frame had been slightly relieved, cutting some weight. I traded the original in on one. I retired in 2000, but still carried it. Fast forward to 2012. After many thousands of rounds, the trigger return spring broke. I sent it back to Kahr. Even though it was long out of warranty, they repaired it, gratis, and turn around was only two weeks. At the Spring 2013 qualification the slide stopped locking back on the last shot. I sent for, and replaced, the mag springs and followers and that cured it. Other than those two items it has never failed to feed, fire, extract or eject. Ever. It is accurate and the trigger pull is butter-smooth. This pistol is a gem.

  6. If you want the 1 in the chamber ready to go plus a full mag, this might not be the best choice of a defensive sidearm, as who knows how many your adversary will bring to the fight? Why handicap yourself by carrying it with an empty chamber and mag well, and having to spend valuable time locking back the slide b4 inserting the mag and releasing slide to chamber round 1 ? A full chamber and full mag in a DAO/SAO gun would be my preference, just draw, aim, fire, keep firing till bad guy stops or you hit slide lock, then duck while swapping to spare mag and resume.

  7. Kahr Arms purchased Auto Ordnance and picked up a worn out company and worn out machinery. Don’t confuse the two manufacturing lines, Kahr’s are high quality, well engineered machines. I’ve carried and shot my Kahr for over 10 years, and it’s been utterly reliable.

    Kahr needs to step up and update the equipment of Auto Ordnance or suffer through the pain of association.

  8. If Kahr builds all of its weapons as well as Kahr owned Auto Ordinance does, then they must have all the quality of a $50 Saturday night special. The Thompson I received was built so poorly it is almost inoperable, after good money, from the factory. If that’s how Kahr builds things and manages quality control, I would advise every potential guy buyer to never even consider this company or any of its products.

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