Kahr’s Affordable CW40

Kahr CW40 at the Range

Excellent ergonomics and performance do not always equate with affordability. The Kahr CW40 is an exception. There are corners cut when a major maker introduces a price leader, true; however, the Kahr pistol hasn’t cut quality. Kahr changed some features. As an example, the front sight is not dovetailed in place, it’s staked on. The frame is polymer rather than steel—which some prefer.

Advantages of the Kahr CW40

Kahr CW40
Trigger reach, frame stippling and size and weight are ideal for a concealed carry handgun.

There are a number of advantages with the Kahr pistol. These handguns are not compact versions of an existing service pistol; Kahr designed them from the inception as compact carry handguns. The dedication to purpose shows in the construction of the Kahr CW40.

  • Ergonomics are excellent.
  • The pistol is solidly constructed.
  • The manual of arms is simple.
  • The pistol is compact.
  • The handgun is more than accurate enough for any reasonable task.
  • When chambered for the effective .40 Smith and Wesson cartridge things get very interesting with this handgun.

There are times when discretion demands a compact handgun that is highly concealable. While I understand this, I do not wish to give up my life for the comfort of a few ounces less weight. The CW40 answers the need for a compact, powerful, reliable and affordable handgun for daily carry use.

Kahr manufactures only one type of handgun. This is a double-action only handgun with compact dimensions. And while they base all their designs on this program, there is much to choose from among the Kahr handguns. There are .380 ACP, 9mm, .40 and .45 caliber handguns. Most recently, I fired the CW 9 pistol and found it accurate, easy to use well and fast handling.

Now the question: How much difference would I find in the .40 caliber version?

Kahr CW40 with Beveled Slide
Note slightly beveled slide—this makes for easy insertion into a tightly fitted holster.

Let’s face it, a 17-ounce .40-caliber handgun must obey the laws of physics; a .40-caliber bullet has more momentum than a 9mm. Recoil is snappier than a .45 in many cases. The superior wound potential of the .40 seemed worthwhile although only if I were able to control the pistol well in aimed fire and rapid fire.

A short 3.5-inch barrel might not get all of the velocity from a lightweight JHP, so load selection is critical. I ran a good range of loads through the Kahr, without a single failure to feed, chamber, fire or eject. The loadings included Fiocchi 180-grain plated bullet training load, Winchester’s Train and Defend and Federal HST.

All proved reliable.

The well-designed dual-wound spring technology of the Kahr ensures reliability and recoil control. The 180-grain training loads gave the least recoil, while the the Federal 155-grain HST exhibited the greatest kick. The Winchester 155-grain Silvertip, tried for a single magazine, was much the same. The preferred menu seems to be 180-grain loads.

When drawing the Kahr from concealed carry, there is little to snag. There is no hammer. The only controls are the slide lock and magazine release. The pistol is striker fired while the trigger action is a true double-action only. The finger presses the trigger and the action both cocks and drops by trigger action. The trigger press is smooth at about 10 pounds, perhaps a bit less. This is probably the lightest possible trigger action to maintain reliable ignition.

Kahr CW40 Single Column Magazine
The single column magazine is well made of good material and proved feed reliable.

A word of caution on trigger reset—when you load the Kahr:

  1. Lock the slide to the rear.
  2. Insert a loaded magazine.
  3. Use the slide lock or pull the slide to the rear and let the slide run forward.
  4. Do not load the magazine in the magazine well and then rack the slide.

There is a subtle difference. By loading the Kahr in the recommended manner, you achieve proper trigger reset. The Kahr’s sights are excellent for concealed carry and combat accuracy. The broad rear sight is easy to acquire quickly and the front post is adequate.

Firing the Kahr CW40

Kahr CW40 at the Range
It was a cold day at the range yet the Kahr .40 caliber pistol proved comfortable to fire.

Over several weeks, I had the occasion to travel to the range with this .40-caliber handgun. Most of the loads fired were the 180-grain Fiocchi load. With this loading, I was able to place five rounds into less than 4-inch groups at 10 yards, firing as quickly as I am able to regain the sight picture. I achieved similar results with other 180-grain loads.

As for absolute accuracy, I benchrested the pistol at 15 yards. Firing a double-action only, compact .40 pistol accurately is a challenge, however, one that is not as difficult when you’re a trained marksman. While combat shooting will save your life, you need to take a careful benchrest to confirm the alignment of the sights and be certain the pistol is shooting where you aim it.

Firing the Fiocchi 180-grain loading, I found that a group of two inches or less at 15 yards was possible. The Winchester 180-grain Defend gave a similar grouping. The best group of the day was with the Winchester 180-grain .40-caliber training round, with a singular 1.5-inch group. I had to work for these results and you know that the pistol is capable of minute of belly button across the parking lot.

The pistol is comfortable to fire largely because of the give of the polymer frame and because of the intelligent stippling of the gripping surface. The sights are adequate; overall, an appealing package at a fair price.

Kahr CW40 Specs

Kahr Arms CW40 Semi-Automatic Handgun
Operation Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
Barrel Length 3 inches, conventional rifling; 1-16 right-hand twist
Caliber .40 S&W
Overall Height 4.62 inches
Overall Length 6.36 inches
Slide Width .94 inches
Weight Unloaded Pistol 16.8 ounces, Magazine 1.9 ounces
Sights Drift adjustable white bar-dot combat rear sight, pinned in polymer front sight
Grips Textured polymer
Capacity 6+1
Magazine 1 – 6 rd, Stainless
Finish Black polymer frame, matte stainless steel slide
Manufacturing Location USA


Share your thoughts about the Kahr CW40 in the comments 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 (10)

  1. I only have two comments about this Kahr. I too have another model in this family — a CW45.
    Bought this gun because of size and slimness but,
    HATE THE TRIGGER SHAPE ! The pull is so long it hurts my finger! Called Kahr service about an alternate or modifying the stock trigger by cutting part of the bottom off to eliminate some of the curve— got a cold “NO” response!
    Found out that on magazines, some after- market 10 round 1911 mags will fit and feed! Capacity is no longer an issue..

    1. Don’t know about the CW40 Victor — I was talking about my CW45.
      On my gun the 1911 magazines fit.

  2. I have owned a Kahr PM40 for some years. Other than my pet 1911, it alone lives outside my large gun safe in off site storage facility. There are several other pistols that reside, pretty much permanently, in the big gun safe and only come out on rare occasions for trips to the range or cleaning. The Kahr has proven remarkably reliable although it wears XS after market large dot tritium sights. Old police maxim: “In a fight, front sight”. Works, so why not make the front sight big and visible?
    In a DeSantis sheath like holster, it rides unobtrusively in the front pocket of my jeans all summer long. It never stays home. Two spare magazines (because the one fault of the Kahr is low magazine capacity) ride in a former IPhone carrier either in my right rear pocket or inside my waist band under a tucked shirt.
    It has to have a couple thousand rounds through it (who counted but it gets shot either 50 or 100 rounds about once a month 4 or 5 months a year for 5 or 6 years). It looks like a very slightly used pistol and shows no visible signs of much wear. I have never had any failures whatsoever with the pistol.
    It is a bit of a handful, but I have done hand strengthening exercises all my adult life — which is some 73 years now. Started squeezing a tennis ball in US Naval School of Preflight in Pensacola in 1964 and have done something like that ever since. I feel the pistol buck but it is under control. After 100 rounds continuous, my right hand feels the shock of having shot it but it only lasts a short time before everything is normal — generally by the time I have packed up and left the range.
    It is supremely accurate considering how small it is. I have never shot anything other than the 180 grain loads and have no idea how it might work, or feel, with anything else. I know shooting it 100 times consecutively, considering it solely as an emergency defense pistol which will never fire probably more than 3 or 4 shots in anger, doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it was my discipline and practice standard for over 50 years. I am now comfortable with the routine and so is my shooting companion of the last 10 years — my grandson.
    Bottom line, it is my second favorite pistol out of some 50 or 60 I have owned over the years. It just works. You may know when you shoot it by the smack in your hand but you also tend to believe it will get the job done. And, it is conveniently available outside the house all the time. Doesn’t get any better than that.

    1. Sir,

      My hat is off to you and best regards.

      Thanks for reading this feature. And thanks so much for the detailed reply chock full of good information.

      Bob Campbell

    2. Macll,

      Thanks for that very thoughtful and insightful comment. I also own a Khar PM40. At first I wasn’t very thrilled with it, but then after having it at the range many many times I realized it was the only pistol I have (other than a Colt 1911 from WW2 which I inherited) that has NEVER had a misfire or misfeed. Mind you I have Sig Sauer’s, Springfield’s, Glocks, etc.. i’ve also put every kind of .40 S&W ammo you can get in my area though it, and not a single problem. So I decided to start to learn how to become accurate with it, and again it surprised me. For a VERY small .40 caliber pistol I can now make good groups at 15+ paces. I knew Khar was a good brand (heard a lot of government agencies recommend the PM40 as a their secondary weapon of choice) that was my initial reason for buying it. And now I see why more often than not real gunslingers always seem to praise the PM series.

      Well thats my 2 cents.


    3. I am quite pleased with this pistol, same experience with no failure but as yet only 800 rounds … just saw on the Kahr website they make a 4″ ported barrel to stabilize recoil

  3. “Do not load the magazine in the magazine well and then rack the slide.” What happens if you do? Just seems a bit unusual to me. Probably not a problem if only a Kahr shooter, but could present problems if used to other firearms. Seems a bit non-standard MOA.

  4. I have a CW .45 it is a great gun the only problem after shooting about 100 rounds the slide got hot an the front sight fell off don’t know if was a bad sight or what I replaced it with a after market sight an haven’t had a problem with it since

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