Gun Test: Kahr CM9
By Robert Sadowski, Gun Digest
What the Kahr CM9 offers:
- The Kahr CM9 is a simplified PM9, making it functional and affordable.
- Micro-compact 9mms can be a handful to shoot, but the CM9 is surprisingly controllable.
- New and female shooters will like the CM9’s easy-to-rack slide.
It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention and that is exactly how Kahr Arms started.
Justin Moon was an avid shooter but wanted a truly ultra-compact 9mm pistol that was totally reliable and easily concealable. In 1996, the Kahr K9 debuted and completely changed the way shooters and those who carry concealed define a compact handgun.
Moon designed his first compact semi-auto with a stainless-steel frame. Chambering it in 9mm gave it teeth. It was all good, but it was a bit heavy. The next evolution of the design was the PM9, which incorporated a lightweight polymer frame. What more could concealed carriers want? A less expensive pistol maybe? Enter the CM9, a 9mm subcompact pistol that won’t take a large bite out of your wallet but performs flawlessly.
The CM9 is everything the PM9 is except for a few modifications that make it much more affordable. Think of the CM9 as a PM9 stripped of all unnecessary adornment. The CM9 has less machining of the slide, and the roll marks on the slide aren’t as refined. The front sight is pinned in place instead of the PM9’s dovetailed blade.
The controls, namely the slide stop lever, are metal injection molded. Instead of polygonal rifling, the CM9 has conventional cut rifling. It is shipped with one magazine. The aesthetics are the shortcut to cost savings but there are no shortcuts when it comes to the internal mechanism. The CM9’s internal parts are the same as the PM9, as is the polymer frame.
On the outside, the CM9 is a bit of a plain-Jane but on the inside, it is a beauty that maintains Kahr’s reputation for sweet-shooting pistols. These cost-saving modifications may make the CM9 look slightly different from the PM9, but they lop off some $200 from the price tag. A great shooter at a really good price.
The CM9 uses a Browning-style locked-breech design with a striker-fire mechanism that operates with a passive firing pin safety. The Kahr design is notable for its smooth pull, which feels like a slicked-up DAO revolver. When the trigger is depressed a double-lobed cocking cam rotates and draws the striker to the rear, deactivating the firing pin block.
The system is very safe as well as smooth and consistent. Trigger pull averages about 6 pounds, 8 ounces. The smooth, wide trigger no doubt makes the pull feel less.
Kahr pistols are known for their thin girth and lightweight heft and the CM9 is no different. Many times, as the size of the pistol shrinks, the ability to operate and shoot it accurately diminish, too.
Some compact 9mm pistols have hard-to-rack slides and some have small controls. The CM9’s slide is easy to work. The angled serrations at the rear give good purchase. The sights are made of polymer and are a dot and bar setup. The front sight has a white dot while the rear sports a white vertical bar so when the sights are aligned they form a lowercase “i.” It is a fast sighting system to use.
The rear sight is dovetailed in place and can be adjusted left or right using a brass punch and hammer or a sight pusher. The external extractor acts as a loaded chamber indicator, slightly protruding when a round or empty case is chambered. The pistol uses a solid recoil rod that no doubt aids accuracy.
The frame of the CM9 offers plenty of texture where it is needed, like the front and rear grip straps and the sides of the grip. The coarsely checkered pattern on the front and rear grip straps make the small gun easier to control when firing hot 9mm rounds in rapid fire.
The grip sides have a stippled texture that works even when firing with sweaty hands. The oval mag release button is serrated and easily manipulated with the thumb of a right-handed shooter. It protrudes just enough and works consistently, allowing empty magazines to fall free. The grip is short, so most shooters will need to curl their small finger under the magazine.
The slide stop is full size, unlike many subcompact pistols that have smaller controls. After the last round is fired the slide locks back giving you a visual clue that it’s time to reload. The slide stop — with its serrated surface — is easily manipulated to close the slide on a fresh magazine; or, the slide can be pulled rearward, so it flies forward into battery.
The 6-round magazine is all metal save for the polymer follower. It fits flush with the butt. Witness holes in the magazine body let you know how many cartridges are loaded. Speaking of loading, stuffing the magazine even to full capacity is easy on your thumb. The lips of the magazine are rounded. No cut thumbs.
According to the manual, Kahr recommends you fire at least 200 rounds to ensure it will perform reliably. Not many manufacturers state that in their literature but we all know that any mechanism needs to be broken in.
With that in mind, I had an assortment of reloads and factory ammo to run through the CM9. The reloads were — to be honest — not the best-looking cartridges. They were plenty tarnished and had been through the reloading press a few times. The Kahr chewed through them all. It just fired and ejected the brass with no questions asked. I have used these reloads on other 9mms and found other guns choked on them.
For factory ammunition, I had hot Hornady Critical Duty 9mm +P with a 135-grain FlexLock on hand. The FlexLock bullets fill the hollowpoint with a soft rubber that expands the bullet in a variety of media.
For standard pressure ammo, I tried Hornady Steel Match with a 115-grain HAP (Hornady Action Pistol) bullet, and some new manufacture Black Hills loaded with a 115-grain FMJ. The Black Hills stuff was the fastest out of the CM9 averaging about 1,030 fps; the Hornady loads ranged from 909 fps (Critical Duty) to 922 fps (Steel Match).
Shooting for accuracy at 15 yards, I used a rest and squeezed off each round slowly and deliberately. Five-shot groups averaged about 2.5 inches, which was great performance out of such a small-barreled handgun, especially one with a double-action trigger.
For rapid-fire testing, I placed a D-1 tombstone-style target at 15 yards. The drill involved me picking up the Kahr from the shooting bench and placing three rounds as fast as I could into the 8-inch ring of the target. By the time the ammo boxes were empty I was quickly tapping the targets consistently in the right spot.
The CM9 feels thin, none of that chunky grip you get with other double-stack polymer-framed models. Even with the +P loads, there is little muzzle flip. It is easy to control.
As a concealed carry handgun, the CM9 is easy to hide and a pleasure to carry. It is a quality compact 9mm at an affordable price that makes sense for armed citizens.
MODEL: Kahr CM9
ACTION: Short Recoil, Locked Breech
TRIGGER: Double-Action Only
BARREL LENGTH: 3.0 in.
OVERALL LENGTH: 5.42 in.
WEIGHT: 15.9 oz. (unloaded)
GRIPS: Textured Polymer
SIGHTS: White Bar-Dot Combat
FINISH: Black Frame/Stainless Slide
CAPACITY: 6+1, Single-Stack Magazine
Check this out: Gun Digest offers a ton free downloads from AR-15’s and Concealed Carry to Reloading and Gun Values. Click here to see what they offer.