Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Practical Look at the Kahr PM Series Pistols

I'll kick this piece off with an admission.  Many years ago I saw Kahr pistols for the first time at a S&W and Kahr Demo Day at a local range.  I decided to buy some ammo and try out the little MK9.  I absolutely hated the kick and hand sting I got from the MK9.  I immediately wrote off the brand and didn't even think about Kahr again until late 2008 when I decided to take the plunge and buy the new Kahr mid-size CW45 polymer pistol chambered in 45 ACP.  The CW45 was still fairly new on the market and who couldn't use another 45 ACP so I took a chance and picked it up.  I loved the pistol right from the start. 

You know how things tend to go.  First you have one Kahr and then you get another.  Before you know it, someone offers you a used/as-new PM at a super price you can't pass up.  I really didn't intend to end up with a whole set of Kahrs, but once you spend some time with them, they tend to grow on you.  Being partial to small guns, it didn't take me very long to acquire a P380, PM9, and PM40.  Rather than go after a PM45 to complete the set, I opted to get the P45 instead.  You can read about that pistol here.

I also use the Kahrs extensively in my ballistics testing as they are great representatives of the short barrel "pocket" pistols from .380 to 40 S&W.  I find they hit where I aim at close range so their accuracy has been a huge help in keeping my shots in the ballistics test blocks.

About three weeks ago, I was offered a loaner PM45 so I could complete the set and try to put together some sweeping generalizations on the similarities and differences between the 4 pistols as well as provide some buying advice for folks considering buying one of the 4 models.  The picture below shows the 4 pistols covered in this article.  As you can see, they get progressively larger in size as you move from the P380 (380 ACP) up through the 9mm and 40 S&W PM9/PM40.  The PM45 is the largest of the group.   I'm not going to dive into the nitty-gritty product specifications of each pistol since that information is available on the Kahr website.

As the cartridge size grows, so do the magazines.  The magazines are positioned in the same sequence as the pistols show in the photo above.

I don't want to waste your time with a bunch of my own comparison photos showing the Kahr PM pistols versus other competing brands/models of pistols.  Comparisons versus other similar pistols can be best seen here.  Bob O. has done a great job pulling together this resource for the concealed carry community.  I've used the list several times in the past before making a final decision on one pistol versus another.  At the very least, it will help you slim down the number of options before you head out to your local gun retailer to make your purchase.

This review or Buyers Guide is going to be a bit different than my previous work.  First off, it's covering several models in a family of pistols.  Second, the coverage on these pistols has been very comprehensive over the last several years so I'm not trying to rehash the work of others.  Instead, I've made 4 videos that dive deeper into the Kahr ownership experience.  Hopefully, deeper than your typical gun writer that gets a loaner testing and evaluation pistol from the manufacturer.  I've owned my PM9 and P380 for almost 3 years now so I can provide a bit broader view of the Kahr ownership experience over time.  I'm also focusing on features of the pistols that I've been told are very important in the buying decision.

I'll start off with a video I made that compares the relative recoil of  each pistol as compared to the others.  The grid behind the pistol is 2" x 2" squares with a horizontal 45 degree line running from corner to corner.  The video is shot with a high speed camera so you can really focus in on the rearward recoil push as well as the muzzle rise (muzzle flip) of each shot.  As you step up in caliber, you may also notice the right to left roll of the pistol in addition to the muzzle rise.  This is significant because you will need to recover your front sight picture from both the vertical and horizontal planes.  Simply put, the larger the caliber the longer it takes to recover between shots with the PM series pistols.

As I thought through this project, I had to decide on which ammo I would use throughout the test.  I decided to use the Remington/UMC JHP bulk pack ammunition that is reasonably priced and generally pretty easy to find.  I believe this is a fair representative ammunition type that many Kahr buyers will try at least once.  While I had the range and all the PM pistols available, I also ran a terminal ballistics test on each load through it's corresponding PM series pistol.  Those results will be published at a later date.

Moving forward with the demonstration of the 4 pistols, I decided to make a video showing each pistol being shot in two ways.  With a 6" paper plate placed 7 yards down range, I shot two groups with each pistol.  The first group was shot for accuracy and the second group was shot at a faster speed.  I hope it gives the viewer an idea of potential accuracy as well as possible accuracy when fired very quickly. 

The key take away points from this video is that all 4 tested pistols shoot well.  I have found that as you get into the larger .40 and .45 caliber Kahr pistols, they can be a bit fussy on which ammunition they are fed.  You can see that the PM40 and PM45 did not like the large cavity hollow point bullets loaded in the Remington/UMC test ammo.  The fact that the failures repeated exactly the same way for both the slow and fast shooting led me to believe the failures were caused by the ammo and not other factors.

The following week, I went back out to the range for some practical shooting drills with my favorites from the PM line.  For these drills I used the P380 and PM40 in various combinations.  I did change the ammo used in the PM40 to one that I knew would work 100% of the time and you can see the 5th round failures to extract did not happen on this trip.  The P380 was fed the same ammunition as the first outing.  Your specific PM pistol may give you some problems with ammo during the first 200 rounds of break it, but I believe if you stick with it you will find several brands and varieties that will work with your pistol.

I decided to make one last video off the range to cover some common questions that folks told me they had about the PM series pistols before buying them.  I also included some best practices I picked up on the kahrtalk forum for field stripping and reassembling the pistols.  Honestly, I really struggled with dis-assembly and re-assembly with the Kahr pistols when I was a new owner.  The two tips in the video should save you some frustration if you decide to purchase a Kahr of your own.

I hope you enjoyed the EDC parody at the beginning of the video.  While it is physically possible to tote around that loadout, it's far from practical.  The key point is that you can easily conceal a PM just about any place you might want to carry one.

Final Thoughts:
Overall, I find the Kahr P380 and PM9, 40, and 45 to be very well constructed pistols that should stand up to a lifetime of shooting.  In the three years I've owned the P380 and PM9, I've long lost track of how many boxes of ammo have gone down the barrel of each.  In the fourth video, I mentioned that I'm not a big fan of the stock Kahr bar-dot sight system that is on the PM9.  If I wasn't such a procrastinator, I would have mailed the slide away by now for night sights or 3 dot fiber optic sight installation.  About the time I was seriously thinking about getting the sights changed, I picked up the used PM40 with factory installed night sights.  I just changed over from the PM9 to the PM40 and forgot about the sight change.

I had a long talk with the owner of the PM45 about that specific pistol and the Kahr pistols in general.  He shared an insight with me that resonated with my own thinking about the Kahr PM series.  I'll try to keep this short.

This picture summarizes my impression of the Kahr P380.  I've shot my share of 380 pistols over the past few years and I have not found a micro 380 that is any softer or easier to shoot.  Dare I say that it's actually fun to shoot?  Sure, it is fun and it's a 380 you will want to shoot all day long at the range.

As you step up to the PM9 and PM40, you may find that they can become unpleasant to shoot more than a box of 50 at a time.  Each shooter has their own personal limit on how much recoil and muzzle flip they can put up with in a shooting session.  The good news is that with sufficient practice, you will probably find that you are able to tame the beast and grow to love the tiger in your pocket or waistband.

Then we step up to the PM45.  The owner and I agreed that the PM45 would work best for a seasoned shooter that is willing to spend some extra time learning how to tame the beast.  It's not an unpleasant or painful shooting experience, but it will take more time and training to shoot as quickly and accurately as the P380 or the PM9.    

The Kahr P380 and PM series of pistols are premium priced pistols.  These are the top of the line polymer mini Kahrs.  As additional small pistols started hitting the market Kahr responded with their own more modestly priced CM series of pistols.  Identical to the PM series in many ways, the CM9 and CM40 have been very well received by the shooting community.  If the function and features of the PM series appeal to you, but the price doesn't, you may want to check the CM line as an alternative.


  1. Great review....very comprehensive

  2. What do you think is the best pocket 9mm on the market if $ was no object?

    1. I wish I had an answer for you, but there are still several that I have not had a chance to try. For example the SCCY, Kimber Solo, Keltec PF-9, and Ruger LC9.

    2. I own a CM-9 and I have shot the Ruger LC9. The Ruger is much more snappy with noticeably more muzzle flip. The bore axis is lower in relation to the grip which makes more of a push than a flip on the CM-9.

  3. The Kahr P380 is the only gun of the newer series of 380 micro pistols that I have shot. I have seen lots of bad comments about them, and here is my take on them. The guns are well made, and not cheaply made. They are sold VERY tight, with firm recoil springs. If you can spend the $550.+ on the gun and are not willing to put a lot of rounds through the gun, it may disappoint you. If you are a person who lives 45min+ from your gun range and will only put 50 rds through the gun every so often, then the gun may disappoint you. .380 is hard to find, and more expensive than other calibers.
    But, if you are willing to have patience, put a lot of rounds down range, you will see that once the tight parts begin to mesh together, you will have a very finely crafted, locked breach, mild recoiling, wonder pistol. I love the little bugger!

    1. Couldn't agree more. The Kahr pocket models are built to shoot, and shoot, and shoot.

  4. Any idea when we can expect a PM10? ;)

    1. Probably about the same time we see a PM357. I'd love a PM40 sized pistol that would handle the 357 Sig cartridge.

    2. That's actually a great idea. I'm all for as strong as possible in a as light as possible package.
      Yes, the solution kick like a mule, but if you can control it, who cares about kick in a defensive situation.

  5. I own a CM9 and I like it. The reason I purchased it was 1. easy to conceal, especially during summer months when I wear shorts and tee shirts. 2. good trigger. 3. best caliber for me in a pistol this size and weight. Some people complain on how Kahr recommends to load the CM9 (slide locked back...insert magazine....release slide vs slingshot). Others complain about the suggested 200 round break-in. Everything considered....I recommend it.
    I found the Remington UMC target ammo to be extremely dirty.....anybody else???

  6. If you could only pick one of these for real pocket carry , (shorts or jeans) not coats, db9 or kahr pm/cm9 and what sd ammo would you stoke it with ? thanks in advance bruce. Lou F.

    1. PM9/CM9 and Federal HST 124 +P would be my one choice combo from the options you provided.

  7. How do you compare the cm/pm 9 to the solo in short?

    How do you compare the .45 to the XDS in short?

    You can sum it up with if I could only own 1, it would be the ...

    1. Solo vs. PM9 is a dead heat. Buy the one you like best and live happily ever after.

      XDs over the PM45 by a wide margin. I've never met anyone that has a perfectly reliable PM45 that didn't require a trip or two back to Kahr to get that way. XDs had their recall issue so they aren't perfect either, but less folks grousing about reliability issues with the XDs.