Review: Kahr Tungsten .380 Pistol

Bob Campbell handling the Kahr .380 pistol

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.

Kahr .380 Tungsten pistol, profile right
The Kahr is a neat, trim package.

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.

Kahr .380 top and snub nose .38 revolver bottom
The Kahr is lighter than a snub nose .38 and offers two more cartridges, although it isn’t as powerful as the .38 Special.

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.

Bob Campbell handling the Kahr .380 pistol
The Kahr is a fast-handling handgun for close range use.

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.

Kahr .380 Tungsten piastol with magazine and Gorilla ammunition
Feed reliability was flawless.

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.


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 (6)

  1. I have a Kahr p380 with a factory Trijicon night sights. Also with a mitch Rosen pocket holster. It also came with the lothar polygonal Barrel. It is one sweet little gun. Want to buy a second for the other pocket

  2. Nothing but problems with the CW 380/ Loved the grip and trigger. I babied it and even sent it back to KAHR to get fixed up, and still after 1200 rounds it NEVER broke in. I am not alone in this.

  3. I did not see any explanation of why Kahr used tungsten. Knowing that tungsten carbide is extremely hard and used in cutting tools, while tungsten nitride is also extremely hard and used as a coating over steel, such as drill bits, to prevent galling, provide wear resistance and extend their cutting life, I might assume that one of these types of tungsten materials was used for smooth operation – but which type? Or is my assumption incorrect?

  4. I have the CW380 in Tungsten, i was apprehensive about it’s reliability having seen a lot of negative reviews involving feeding issues so I got some snap-caps and worked the action over 500 times before I was confident enough to take it to the range. Once on the range I had 0 issues and would trust my life to this little pistol.

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