It seems like every time you blink your eyes, companies are releasing new compact pistols. I believe this is for good reason, as the concealed carry handgun is what the market is buying. Hunting rifles may be back next year, but for now, thin is in.
Kahr is well known in the CCW market even though the company is relatively young when standing next to Smith & Wesson, Colt, Ruger and Remington. Sleek, high-quality pistols are what Kahr is known for. They have carved out a niche in the firearms industry where they cater to customers looking for thin handguns that are clearly for concealed carry.
But with most things in life, there are trade-offs. With Kahr, quality manufacturing has been reflected in the price tag. While you do indeed get what you pay for, many people wanted a Kahr but could not cost-justify the decision in the face of other, less expensive handguns. To meet the demands for lower prices, Kahr introduced a number of pistols that are much more budget friendly.
The Kahr CM9 is one example of the company’s move toward the less-expensive end of the handgun market. It is very similar to the more expensive PM9 pistol, but carries a suggested retail price that is $350 cheaper. The obvious question is what does one lose by going with the cheaper model? Surprisingly, a shooter doesn’t lose much.
Let’s take a look at the CM9 and then at the differences between it and the PM9.
Overview of the CM9
The CM9 is a single-stack 9mm pistol that is clearly built to be easily concealed. This lends itself to both concealed carry by citizens and as a backup gun for police officers.
The pistol has a polymer frame and a stainless steel slide and barrel. The frame is black while the slide and barrel have a matte silver finish.
The frame has aggressive checkering on the front and backstrap, which allows the shooter a more sure grip when firing. The frame (and grip) are very thin. Shooters with small hands will appreciate how much easier it is to reach the trigger, while larger hands will still fit the gun well.
Although the CM9 ships with only a single, flush fitting magazine, their are extended magazines available for the gun. The flush fitting mags hold six rounds while the extended magazines will hold seven cartridges. Obviously, the flush fitting magazines will conceal much easier than the extended magazines will. However, the extended magazines give the hand a little extra to grip.
The CM9’s sights are a dot and bar set-up like on the other Kahr pistols. The front sight is fixed and pinned into place, while the rear sight is set in a dovetail. The rear sight can be adjusted for windage, or easily replaced if the shooter so desires. The sights are easy to see in bright and dim conditions, though a front tritium insert would have been a nice finishing touch on this handgun.
The trigger is a double-action-only set up. The pull weight on this CM9 measured 6 pounds, 8.5 ounces. This was measured on a Lyman digital scale using the average of ten pulls.
Kahr CM9 Specifications
- Barrel: 3″
- Overall Length: 5.42″
- Height: 4″
- Weight (unloaded, with magazine): 15.9 oz
- Standard Magazine Capacity: 6
- Ships with one, flush fitting magazine.
- MSRP: $460 (current as of June 2015)
Differences from the PM9
Ok, so I’ve described the CM9. But, how does it compare to its more expensive stablemate, the PM9?
Here are the differences between the CM9 and PM9…
- The CM9 uses a metal-injection-molded slide stop instead of a machined stop. MIM parts are generally strong and reliable, though the use of inferior metals can create a part that will wear quicker than a machined piece of stainless steel. The slide stop on my example appeared to be in excellent condition after hundreds of rounds being fired through the gun.
- The CM9 uses a plastic, pinned front sight. This means the front sight is not easily replaced by the owner. If you believe you would want aftermarket sights such as a Big Dot from XS or a fiber optic sight, the CM9 is not a cost-effective solution for you.
- The CM9 ships with only one magazine as opposed to the PM9’s two. Extra mags can be had for a lot less than the difference in price between the two guns.
- The CM9 has simple engraving on the slide as opposed to nicer roll marks. This is a cosmetic difference only, but may make a difference to you.
- There are fewer machining operations on the CM9 than on the PM9. The PM9 winds up with a more streamlined slide because of this. However, there does not appear to be any significant practical difference between the two slides.
- CM9: $460 PM9: $810 – a $350 difference
It is your call on which is the better value.
The best part of this Kahr CM9 review was getting the gun out onto the range. I’m a shooter and so is this pistol.
I found the CM9 pointed very naturally for me. With some handguns, I have to “get a feel” for how the gun fits my hand before I consistently have the sights aligned from the draw without any adjustment. Not so with the CM9. From the first time I picked it up, the gun pointed perfectly for me with the sights properly aligned.
Recoil was very mild. I know, I know: the 9mm doesn’t have much recoil to start with. However, with a tiny gun, I expect even mild cartridges to sting a little. But with the CM9, recoil was light and easy to control.
I’ve previously shot and reviewed the Taurus 709, a single stack 9mm with dimensions similar to the Kahr CM9. Actually, the Kahr is a little smaller and lighter. However, the recoil from the 709 is much harsher than from the CM9. (Don’t get me started on the infinitely better reliability of the Kahr, either.)
I thought the accuracy of the CM9 was exceptional, especially for a subcompact pistol. While Kahr pistols are generally held in good regard for their accuracy, I expect that much of the credit for the good groups I was getting goes to the smooth trigger and excellent sights.
Too many small pistols have crappy triggers and nearly un-useable sights. The CM9 has a very smooth double action trigger that is free of any hitches or rough spots. Plus the sights are just as visible as any on the company’s larger pistols. These two things combine to really help the weak link (me – the shooter) deliver good accuracy.
Reliability is the most important aspect of any firearm I own for self-defense. If it doesn’t go “bang” when I need it, then I have no use for the gun.
Kahr pistols are known for their reliability and the CM9 is another example of this well-deserved reputation. I’ve put hundreds of rounds through my CM9 and experienced only one malfunction. The single malfunction was a failure to feed within the first 20 rounds shot through the pistol using inexpensive FMJ ammo. In the hundreds of rounds since, I’ve experienced no failures.
I tested the CM9 with a broad range of ammunition: standard pressure, +P and +P+ as well as different manufacturers and bullet designs. Full metal jacket and hollowpoints all run fine through this gun. Among the loads shot:
- Federal American Eagle 115 gr FMJ
- Winchester USA (white box) 115 gr FMJ
- Federal HST 124 gr +P JHP
- Federal HST 147 gr +P JHP
- Federal PBLE +P+ JHP
- Winchester PDX1 147 gr JHP
- Remington (green box) 115 gr JHP
- Remington Golden Saber 124 gr +P JHP
- Speer Gold Dot 124 gr +P JHP
(Ed. note – Skip down to the update at the end of this article for additional information on reliability and ammunition performance.)
The CM9 wound up being an excellent pistol. Even though it is from the “budget” line of pistols, Kahr did not skimp on reliability, accuracy or feel of the gun. I highly recommend this handgun if you are in the market for a subcompact pistol.
This concludes my review of the Kahr CM9 pistol. I sincerely hope that it has been useful to you. Please let me know if there is some additional information that I can include about this gun, or if there is anything you would like to see in future reviews.
Long Term Testing
Since writing this review more than three years ago, I’ve put many more rounds through the gun and have some additional thoughts on the pistol. Additionally, I’ve updated my review guidelines and wish to add additional information to bring this review up to the current standards.
Purchase and Use
The CM9 in this review was provided by Kahr for the purpose of testing and review. Since the gun performed so well, I purchased the pistol. At the time, I was still a uniformed police officer, and I qualified with this pistol to carry it as a backup gun. I don’t know if I could give a handgun higher praise than to choose it as a tool to save my own life.
I carried the CM9 in an Uncle Mike’s ankle holster for more than year while in uniform patrol. I never had to use it outside of the practice range, but it was with me on every call exposed to the mud and elements. It performed flawlessly in practice even after being carried around in the abusive environment of a central Florida costal city.
Range and Ammunition Performance
After leaving law enforcement to pursue writing full time, I put the Kahr in the safe and haven’t carried it much in the past two years. The gun is great for CCW, but I’ve been carrying other pistols a lot more as part of my writing and testing.
To update this article, I took the gun to the local range to put some ammunition across the chronograph. Unfortunately, I did not have all of the loads available this time that I did when I wrote the initial part of this review. However, I did run 15 different loads and have the velocity results below:
|Blazer Brass 115 gr FMJ||1012 fps||261 ft-lbs|
|Federal BPLE 115 gr JHP +P+||1132 fps||327 ft-lbs|
|Federal Champion 115 gr FMJ||1010 fps||260 ft-lbs|
|Federal HST 124 gr +P||1062 fps||311 ft-lbs|
|Hornady Critical Duty 135 gr +P||994 fps||296 ft-lbs|
|HPR Ammunition 115 gr JHP||1009 fps||260 ft-lbs|
|HPR Ammunition 124 gr JHP||900 fps||223 ft-lbs|
|Liberty Ammunition 50 gr JHP||1857 fps||383 ft-lbs|
|Perfecta 115 gr FMJ||970 fps||240 ft-lbs|
|Remington UMC Target 115 gr MC||1015 fps||263 ft-lbs|
|Remington UMC 115 gr JHP||1012 fps||261 ft-lbs|
|SIG SAUER Elite Performance 115 gr FMJ||1013 fps||262 ft-lbs|
|SIG SAUER Elite Performance V-Crown 124 gr JHP||957 fps||252 ft-lbs|
|SIG SAUER Elite Performance V-Crown 147 gr JHP||844 fps||233 ft-lbs|
|Winchester White Box 115 gr JHP||1001 fps||256 ft-lbs|
As you can see, the ammo is a mix of FMJ and JHP rounds. I experienced a single malfunction: a stovepipe on the last round of the Hornady Critical Duty +P load. These types of malfunctions can be common in small handguns if the shooter does not have a firm grip on the pistol. While I would like to think I wasn’t “limp wristing” the pistol, I have to acknowledge that may have been the source of the problem. After that malfunction, I put more than 100 rounds through the gun without any additional malfunctions.
Comparison to Other Compact 9mm Pistols
When the CM9 first hit the market, there were not very many other inexpensive, single-stack 9mm pistols on the market. Since then, several other manufacturers have introduced compact 9s that are direct competitors such as the Smith & Wesson M&P Shield and the Glock 43.
I think the CM9 compares favorably to the current alternatives. It is more compact than the G43 without losing any capacity. It is noticeably smaller than the Shield at the loss of only one round. Based on my experience, the Taurus 709 is not reliable enough for consideration. I’ve not had enough time with the Kel-Tec or Ruger offerings to give a good comparison of them.
The trigger is smoother than the Shield and Glock, but it is also much longer with an equally long reset. I prefer the Glock trigger, but I know many people prefer the Kahr trigger.
I’m still glad I purchased this pistol, and I recommend it to anyone who likes the Kahr style of gun but doesn’t want to shell out the extra money for the PM9.
Last Update: October 15, 2022
The pistol used in this review was provided by Kahr specifically for testing. After completing the testing, I purchased the pistol from Kahr at a discount from the MSRP. The price was in line for what I would expect to pay for a used CM9, which is exactly what is was at that point.
No promises were made, nor were any requested, to provide a positive review of the gun. Kahr is not an advertiser, nor have I ever been in any discussions with them to be one.
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