December 05, 2017
Kahr Arms, which has been in business since 1993, introduced its Value Series pistols in 2005 after establishing a fine reputation for producing quality-made, rugged, reliable, steel-frame and polymer-frame pistols that certainly were well worth the money. But the firm realized that not everybody wanted to pay the premium prices, which its bread-and-butter pistols cost at that time. The company made some changes to those premium guns in order to bring the cost down. Now for 2017 Kahr has given the Value Series pistols a new look. Before I detail the new 2017 guns, here's a brief description of how all Kahr pistols operate and some notes on how the Value Series pistols differ from the premium pistols.
How a Kahr Pistol Operates
The Value Series pistols operate the same way as the premium pistols. They are some of the most user-friendly DAO pistols out there. The trigger stroke is smooth, light, and stage-free. In fact, the great trigger pulls are one of the features that make Kahr pistols—premium and Value Series—so popular. Kahr accomplishes this by means of a system in which a trigger stroke of approximately 0.7 inch rotates a cam that unlocks the spring-loaded striker safety, withdraws and moves the striker to the fullcock position, and then releases the striker to fire the pistol.
There are no external safeties on Kahr pistols. Instead there is an internal striker block that immobilizes the partially cocked striker from any movement until it is deactivated by squeezing the trigger through a complete stroke. Because there are no external safeties, Kahr pistols have a snag-free exterior, which, obviously, is great for guns primarily intended for legal concealed carry. I'll note here that the sample pistols I used for this report do not have magazine disconnect safeties, either. In other words, they will fire with the magazines out.
Here's the sequence of operation. Upon firing, the slide moves rearward, and a cam on the barrel lug pulls the barrel down and unlocks it from the slide. The slide continues rearward and extracts and ejects the spent case. The recoil spring, which is located on a full-length guide rod under the barrel, pushes the slide forward, which strips a fresh round from the magazine and chambers it. As the slide goes into battery, the barrel and slide are locked together by the barrel hood moving up into the ejection port.
Kahr pistols use an offset barrel with the trigger mechanism beside it, instead of under it, and the design allows the frame to have a high grip close to the centerline of the bore. Having a grip close to the center of the bore provides enhanced recoil control and also reduces muzzle flip and felt recoil.
Another nice touch is the self-cleaning extractor, which forces powder residue away from the extractor, preventing fouling from building up. The extractor design also limits movement, reducing the possibility of failure to extract.
The Value Series pistols have polymer frames like many of the company's premium pistols. Kahr introduced its first polymer-frame pistol, the premium P9, in 1999. The P9 was soon followed by the .40-caliber P40 and P40 Covert pistols. The smaller PM9 was introduced in 2003, and it was followed a year later by the full-size TP9 and three years later the TP40. The P380, chambered for .380 Auto, was introduced in 2010.
The Value Series pistols, all designated by CM, CT, or CW prefixes, were, as I said earlier, introduced in 2005. The CW9 was the first, the CM9 came later in 2011, and the CT9 was announced in 2014. Today, in addition to the CW9 and CM9 models reviewed here, there are CM40, CM45, CT380, CT9, CT40, CT45, CW380, CW40, and CW45 models. The CT models have 4.0-inch barrels in either 9mm, .40 S&W, or .45 ACP caliber. The CT380 has a 3.0-inch barrel.
The Value Series Difference
While they appear almost identical to their premium counterparts and use the same textured polymer frames, the Value Series pistols are intended as economy models and can cost as much as $400 or so less than the top-of-the-line premium models. To accomplish that, Kahr made some significant changes to them. For example, to keep within cost guidelines, the exterior of the Value Series slide has fewer machining operations than the slide of the P Series. As a result, the Value Series slide has a more slab-sided appearance. Also, the front sight is pinned in place rather than set into a dovetail cut as on the P Series. There are also fewer markings on the Value Series slide, and they are rollmarked rather than engraved as on the P Series.
The Value Series slide stop is produced by a metal-injection-molding process, whereas the P Series slide stop is machined. And the Value Series barrel has conventional rifling, whereas the P Series barrel features polygonal rifling. Also, Value Series pistols are shipped with one magazine, whereas the P Series pistols come with three.
The New-for-2017 CM9 & CW9
Now let's take a look at the new-for-2017 versions of the CM9 and CW9, which Shooting Times received shortly after they were announced. Both pistols are 9mm. The main difference between the two is the barrel length. The CM9 has a 3.0-inch barrel, whereas the CW9 has a 3.6-inch barrel. That means the CW9's slide and frame are longer, and the CW9's grip frame is longer as well. The CW9's height (from the bottom of the grip frame without a magazine to the top of the rear sight) is 4.5 inches, whereas the CM9 is 4.0 inches high. Speaking of the magazine, the CM9 comes with one six-round magazine that's fitted with a polymer Pearce finger-rest magazine extension baseplate. The CW9 comes with one seven-round magazine that has a standard-style polymer baseplate.
Both pistols have new two-white-dots rear sights that are drift-adjustable. The front sights are pinned to the slide (like I said earlier), and they are polymer posts with single white dots. These models used to come with white-bar rear sights. I think of the bar more as a white square than a bar. You now can also get the CW9 with a front night sight if you so choose.
Both guns have elongated trigger guards, but the CW9's frame is covered with a carbon-fiber print finish. There is also a new CW9 with a Burnt Bronze Cerakote slide and standard black frame. Plus, there are California-compliant variants of both new versions of the CW9. The CM9's new-finished parts are the slide, the slide stop, and the trigger, and they wear a Tungsten Gray Cerakote finish. The CM9 also now comes with a removable rubber Pachmayr Tactical Grip Glove.
To reiterate, the white-dot rear sights, the finishes, the Tactical Grip Glove, and the Pearce finger-rest magazine baseplate are new for these models this year.
You can see the results of my shooting sessions with the pair of new pistols in the chart below this article, so there's no need for me to go over all the details here. I will point out that the CM9's best accuracy came with the Federal HST 150-grain JHP ammo, and the CW9's best accuracy came with GBW's Legend Pro 115-grain CHP loading. Those loads averaged 2.91inches and 1.94 inches respectively for three, five-shot groups at 25 yards.
During the accuracy-shooting portion of my evaluation, both guns functioned reliabily with all loads, except the CM9 had several light striker strikes with the Winchester 115-grain Silvertip ammo. All of those rounds fired on a second go, and I could not diagnose what caused the misfires.
With that part of the test completed, I set up my portable 6-inch-wide steel plate and my 10-inch steel gong at close ranges and some paper Birchwood Casey man-size silhouettes at three, seven, and 10 yards and had a blast (pun intended) shooting the pistols.
I put both guns through several offhand drills. At three yards, I drew and fired three rounds on a silhouette target with a one-handed grip. I simulated a combat reload by dropping the magazine into my offhand, pretending to remove it from a magazine pouch, and inserting it into the pistol and then repeated the shooting. At seven yards, I drew and double-tapped a target with a two-hand grip. I holstered the gun and repeated that drill twice. At 10 yards, I drew and fired a full magazine in slow aimed fire with a two-hand hold. Then I reloaded the magazine and repeated the drill.
Both pistols had relatively long trigger take-ups, and both pistols had fairly heavy trigger pulls. The CW9's pull averaged 6 pounds, 4 ounces, and the CM9's averaged 6 pounds, 8 ounces, according to my trigger pull gauge. Both triggers broke just as they bottomed out. Also, trigger reset was all the way forward.
Both pistols were completely controllable, and I especially liked the Pachmayr Tactical Grip Glove that came with the CM9. It not only provided a tackier grip, but it also increased grip circumference so as to make shooting more comfortable. The 9mm cartridge is relatively easy-shooting even out of a thin-gripped pistol, but the increased grip circumference was definitely noticeable. For comparison's sake, the CW9's flat, thin grip circumference measured 4.75 inches, and the CM9's, with the Tactical Grip Glove in place, measured 5.25 inches.
Both pistols are easily concealed. Obviously, the smaller CM9 is easier to conceal, but even the CW9 would go into a pocket holster in the front pocket of a pair of casual pants and not leave much of a signature. Both pistols are lightweight, so they won't drag your pants down. And being part of the Value Series with MSRPs of less than $500, both pistols are, in my opinion, very reasonably priced.
As for the new finishes, well, I happen to like the Tungsten Gray Cerakote finish on the CM9, and I like the carbon-fiber print frame on the CW9. Some of my cohorts don't care for the carbon-fiber print, but as with most finishes, it's a matter of personal choice. If you don't care for either new treatment, not to worry: Kahr still offers both models in the standard matte stainless slide/plain black frame configurations. Me, I'd say these two new pistols are "dressed to the nines."