Monday, March 23, 2015

Kahr CT380 Review


Kahr Arms announced the CT380 handgun in early October 2014.  The CT380 is part of the Kahr Value Series of handguns.  Traditionally, Kahr releases the Premium handgun and subsequently follows with the release of a corresponding Value Series model.  For example, the Premium Series P380 was followed by the Value Series CW380.

What made the release of the CT380 unique was the decision by Kahr to skip the Premium handgun and just develop the Value Series model.  Why Kahr made this decision is a subject of speculation.  My theory is that Kahr expedited development of the CT380 to compete with the successful launch of the Glock 42.  The Value Series CT380 filled a gap in the Kahr product line for those looking for a larger 380 with increased capacity, barrel length, Kahr quality, at a price point well below the Glock 42.     

If you are new to the Kahr brand, it can be a little daunting to figure out the differences between the Premium and Value Series handguns when you are out shopping at your local dealer.  Kahr does an excellent job describing the differences on their corporate website.  If you have a Kahr on your shopping list, it's worth your time to read the website before heading out to the store.  Since you are currently here, I've copied the information from the Kahr website for you.  Per Kahr, the "Differences between the Kahr Value Series CT380 and the Kahr Premium Series P380 models include: the CT series has a conventional rifled barrel instead of the match grade polygonal barrel found on Premium models; the CT slide stop lever is MIM (metal-injection-molded) instead of machined; the CT series slide has fewer machining operations, and uses simple engraved markings instead of roll markings; the P380 comes with three magazines and is shipped in a lockable plastic case. The CT Value series comes with one 7 rd. stainless steel magazine and ships in a cardboard box." 

I own, and have shot, several examples of the Premium and Value Line Kahr handguns over the years.  All have functioned equally well, and have endured extended use in similar fashion.  For those that don't place a significant value on the aesthetic enhancements of the Premium Kahr handguns, the Value Line provides a great opportunity to own a Kahr firearm at a price significantly less than the Premium model.  The Value Line handguns will typically cost about 30 to 35% less than the Premium models.

The CT380 reviewed here was a personal purchase from a firearm retailer.  It did not receive any special attention from Kahr and should be representative of other CT380s available at retail outlets.  The actual street price was less than $300.  

Out of the Box

The CT380 delivers no surprises right out of the box.  It is virtually identical to all the other polymer framed Kahr handguns.  One notable update I noticed was the slide stop spring is now colored yellow.  Kahr includes an additional fact sheet, with the User Manual, explaining the relationship of the slide stop spring and slide stop.  For the first time Kahr owner, understanding the proper orientation of this spring is fundamental for reliable functioning.

Field stripping the CT380 is very easy.  After removing the magazine and verifying the chamber is clear, align the witness marks on the left side of the slide and frame while pushing the slide stop pin from the right side of the frame.  After removing the slide stop, the slide, barrel, and recoil spring assembly can be removed from the frame.  No additional disassembly is required for routine cleaning and maintenance.

The polymer frame includes moderately aggressive texturing on the front and back straps.  The grip panels have a less aggressive texture and feature the Kahr logo.  The front strap is long enough to accommodate three fingers on the grip.

Like other Kahr pistols, the main controls are accessible on the left side of the frame.  As a right-handed shooter, this works well for me with the slide stop and magazine release easily accessible and manipulated with my thumb.

All stainless steel components are well finished, and have a nice bead blasted finish.  The grasping grooves on the rear of the slide are large and deep enough for a secure grip on the slide.  That's a good thing because the dual recoil springs are very powerful and significant effort is required to fully retract the slide.

The CT380 ships with white on black sights of the bar and dot variety.  The rear sight is drift adjustable for windage.  For those that prefer night sights, the Customer Service Team at Kahr is currently working on adding night sights to the Kahr web store.  They should be available in the next few weeks.

All Kahr handguns share the same trigger system.  The CT380 has a long trigger pull that is very smooth through the entire pull stroke.  The trigger pull weight averaged 5 pounds 11 ounces on the CT380 reviewed here.  The pull weight falls inside the 5 to 7 pound range listed in the product specifications.

For those that follow the blog, you know I have the smaller Kahr P380 that I frequently use for ammunition testing and also carry from time to time.  In general handling, I really liked the way the larger CT380 felt in my hands.  Kahr maintained the slim width of the P380 while extending the frame height and length.  The result is a well balanced handgun that allows the shooter to get three fingers on the grip.  I couldn't wait to get the CT380 out on the range and see if it shot as well as it felt.

On the Range
The CT380 accompanied me to the range several times this Winter.  Kahr recommends a 200 round break-in period for all of their handguns.  Instead of banging through all 200 rounds in a day, or weekend, I spread it out over many weeks as weather permitted.  During the break-in period I experienced some light primer strikes and slide lock failures after the last round was fired.  While not ideal, I think this is pretty typical based on my previous experience with Kahr products.  I didn't have any problems with feeding or extraction.

With regard to shoot-ability, I really liked the longer slide for the increased sight radius and more weight up front for recoil control.  Additionally, the longer grip allowed me to get all three fingers on the front strap for even more recoil control.  The longer slide and taller grip combined make the CT380 a very soft shooting 380.  After a short familiarization period, it was very easy to shoot the CT380 accurately.  While not my preferred sighting system, the bar and dot sights are perfectly acceptable for precision and speed shooting. 

In parallel with the review of the CT380, I also evaluated the Plus 1 Magazine Kit from MagGuts.  The kit contains a new spring, follower, and base plate locking plate.  The kit is very easy to install and boosts magazine capacity from 7 to 8 rounds.

In my evaluation, the MagGuts converted magazine functioned as well as an unaltered factory magazine.  MagGuts kits are available directly from the manufacturer through their webstore.  +1 kits are also available for Kahr 380 magazines with 6 round factory capacity.  MagGuts has comprehensive installation videos for all their products on their website and also on YouTube.

The range video contains several highlights from my range work with the CT380.  I didn't include any footage of velocity testing, but I did run some rounds over the chronograph to see if the extra barrel length increased velocity over the P380.  I was very pleased to see that velocity was nearly identical to the results I observed when testing the same loads in a Glock 42.

Something new I tried during this review was the "Magazine of Doom".  While sounding very ominous, the magazine of doom is just a magazine loaded with many different varieties of ammunition of various bullet weights and nose profiles.  I see it as a simple test of how accommodating, or fussy, a pistol may be about the ammunition you feed it.  The CT380 digested the magazine perfectly, but did fail to lock the slide back after the last round was fired.


Direct Link to Review Video on YouTube



Fully loaded, with 8 rounds of 90 grain jacketed hollow point ammunition, the CT380 weighs in at a scant 15.5 ounces.  Even with the additional grip length, the CT380 rides comfortably in the front pocket.  For those that prefer in waistband carry, I found the CT380 to be equally comfortable for appendix carry.

The CT380 bridges the gap between micro and compact handguns.  By up-sizing the P380/CW380, Kahr has created a handgun that is easier to grip, control, and shoot accurately without sacrificing concealability.  This Value Line offering should appeal to anyone shopping for a reasonably priced concealed carry handgun with the features and performance of a compact handgun, but with less recoil.

I'm left wondering if we will ever see the Premium version of the CT380.  If Kahr makes it, I'd like one with the blackened finish and night sights please.        


CT380 and CM9 side by side comparison
CT380 and CM9 holstered for size comparison
 








Sample chronograph results with the CT380
CT380 fully loaded weight is less than a pound


















29 comments:

  1. Bruce, love your reviews. I have a CM9 and really love it. Think the CT380 would be a great gun for the wife. How does it shoot vs the CM9?
    Also, since Kahr says ok to +P in 380 I would love to see a clear gel test with the CT380 with high quality 380 +P vs CM9 with standard pressure 9mm.
    Keep up the good work!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback on the reviews. The CM9 has not been shot yet, but from experience with the PM9, I can confirm the CT380 has less felt recoil than the PM9.

      I'll keep your ammo test request in mind as I decide what I'm going to test this year. I know I will be doing a few tests. Just not sure exactly what I will be testing.

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    2. I don't speak for Kahr, but I think there isn't currently a SAAMI spec for "+P" in .380. That might explain their reluctance to approve it. Right now anyone out there can load hot ammo in .380 and call it "+P" but without SAAMI specs, who knows what it really is, and who knows what Kahr might be opening themselves up to by approving it? I'm just saying.

      Kahr makes the P9 and CW9 that are only a tiny bit larger than the CT380, and those are rated for 9mm +P. I own a CW9 and I've shot surplus M882 submachinegun ammo, Speer Gold Dot 124gr +P, Federal 9BPLE 115gr +P+, and Cor-Bon 115gr +P ammo through it without any problems so far, though my carry ammo is a standard-pressure load: Speer Gold Dot 147gr.

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  2. I agree with Mike Krenz, I too would like to see a CT380 +P vs CM9 non plus P gel test should you find the time. Too many people down play the 380 (and .32) as totally insignificant, when in fact they are not. I saw one post asking if a 380 would penetrate a windshield.... In reality, the important thing is to have a handgun available, and the only downside I see in the 380 VS 9mm debate is the cost of 380. For the most part, a 14oz loaded CT380 is not *that* much smaller and lighter than a 19oz loaded CM9, except it is. The CM9 is about 40% heavier (loaded) and kicks more as well, main problems for carrying and shooting for most non dedicated individuals new to CCW. Think of the increase in weight like taxes, would you take a 40% lower tax to have 85% of the effectiveness of the same thing? I know I would... That is the 9mm vs 380 pocket gun argument in a nutshell for me. Belt carry, different story...

    In my opinion, more realistic reviews of the 380 giving it its due against non plus P 9mm are warranted, just due to the large amount of "nuttin below 9mm is serious" horse hockey that proliferates the internet...

    Once again Bruce, outstanding review, like all the others. I really appreciate your blog more and more I go back over it. You have something to be proud of here....

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  3. After the Glock 42 and CT380, I'm looking forward to Sig P290RS 380. My problem with the 42 and CT380 is that the circumfierence of their grips is still too small for me (although unusually in comparison to other guns, I can reach the magazine release with my thumb on those two). Since the P290RS keeps the exact dimensions of the 9mm version, its grip should be thicker. Hopefuly not as thick as Beretta 84F. Obviously the Sig has disadvantages, such as price, excessive slide thickness, short barrel length. But perhaps is still borderline acceptable for pocket carry.

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  4. Excellent review. I am SO close to buying the CT380. My local dealer has a $329 price on it and Kahr has a free mag promotion on until the end of September 2015. Your review was extremely informative and will be a valuable part of my decision making process. I think you sold me on my next carry firearm. Keep up the great reviews!!!

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  5. Your review was very informative. I lost small and ring fingers as well as most of the use of my middle finger on my right (dominant) hand. I am able to control a big, heavy Ruger GP-100 Firing .38 special, but attempts at firing 9mm compacts ( LC9, XDS) were scary as hell. It looks like a little concealed carry gun is gonna have to be a .380. I have narrowed it down to the CT380 and the Ruger LC380. Do you think I would have trouble with the slide, seeing as my grip is limited with my right hand? A two-handed grip is what I use with the revolver, no problem there, but I had trouble with the LC9's and Springer's slide (as well as holding on to them). I understand I'll have to train and learn to handle whatever I buy, but any input would be appreciated.

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    1. Hi Thomas. Thanks for the feedback on the review.

      With your specific requirements, I think it would be best to try and find a friend or local range that will let you try before you buy. I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but even if I can successfully manipulate the slide with the thumb and index finger of my right hand, while holding the CT380 in my left hand it doesn't mean that solution will work for you. Sorry I couldn't be more help.

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  6. Cam you post side by sides of the ct380 and glock 42 please, thanks again.

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  7. Great review and great site. I was just wondering what would be your best carry ammo recommendations for the longer barrel ct380? I know you have lots of great p380 data but was just curious on your thoughts. Thx

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    1. Thanks. I have not had a chance to test anything from the CT380 in gel yet so nothing to recommend at this time.

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  8. Are you still happy with the CT380? I am on the fence about one. Kinda stuck between it and a glock 42. Thanks for the review ( one of the very few I can find! )

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    1. Yes, I am still happy with the CT380. The only thing that would make it better is to add a set of night sights. Last time I checked, Kahr didn't have them on the web store yet.

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    2. I went through this with the same two. Decided on the kahr because its nearly the same size but thinner, holds an extra round without modifying the magazines, and $100 cheaper.

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  9. I just received my tungsten ct380 a few days ago. I did the usual detail strip and clean on the slide. Reassembled and lubed. Racked the slide numerous times and left the slide locked for three days now. Went to insert the mags and noticed one of them takes much more force than needed to seat. Grabbed the other and its almost the same but slightly easier. So I started pulling them apart. The first mag was fine. I went to the next and noticed I could slide the mag bottom off without inserting anything. This made me curious. So I took the other mag and did the same thing although it was a good bit harder to push off. This doesn't bother me as much as the mag having to be slammed in. Before the CT380 I have owned a CW380 and a CM9. They didn't seem to have the issue I have described. However I did notice that when the mags are seated in the mag well all three left a different sized space between the bottom of the mag and butt of the grip. The space on the CT380 is non existent. The CM9 had the largest space. The CW380 seemed to have the best fit. I wanted to know if anyone else has experienced this with a CT380 or any other caliber kahr. Thanks

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    1. I noticed a similar issue with a ct380 I was finding at a LGS last week. Mags were sticky and required extra push to seat and eject. Did you find a resolution?

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    2. My tungsten CT380 arrived last week and both mags were a little “sticky” right out of box. But after my usual break-in routine (similar to yours) they have become much more smooth…but still it takes a fairly solid press until you hear the click confirming the mag is seated.

      You may want to look into doing the MagGuts upgrade. The replacement Alignment Plate that comes with the kit has a slightly larger screw head that keeps the base plate from sliding off the bottom of the mag as easily as the stock equipment, plus you get one extra round. But I agree with you, the gap between the mag and the bottom of the frame on my CT380 is nonexistent compared to my CW9. Maybe Kahr is trying to address one of the major gripes I’ve seen about their mags not fitting flush?

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    3. I reviewed the Magguts kit as part of this review. I have +1 kits in all my P380 and CT380 magazines. Added benefit is the slide locks back more consistently with the Magguts follower.

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    4. Bruce, agreed, it was your review / YouTube video that steered me in the direction of MagGuts...thanks. Good stuff.

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  10. Have been totin' my CT380 in a Remora for about a year now. No problems at all with it except that it doesn't like WWB. Eats everything else. It replaced my Ruger LCP. It's a very nice little pistol that is easy to shoot. Very well made, just like my CW45.

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  11. My CT380 has been sent back to Kahr because of failure to feed issues. I've fired 225 rounds through it, didn't keep track of the jams, but it was way too many. Tried round nose ammo that was suggested, several brands, nothing helped. It would almost always jam about the fifth round, sometimes the first round would not load when pushing the release button, per Kahrs recommendations. I do like the size and feel of the pistol, just very disappointed with the reliability. The customer service people have not been very customer friendly to me. They've had it almost four weeks now. Maybe I just got a lemon. Anyone else had issues like this?

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    1. You are not alone. My ct380 Tungsten will rarely lock open on the last round and routinely nose-dives the first round out of the magazine (affects both of the factory mags). 200 rounds in and still having issues. I will try different ammos and give it a little more time, but far from impressive performance so far.

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  12. I have read about every one of these CT380 reviews and this one by far is the best of the best. I'll get my new one in about a week. Thank you, Gary

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  13. Info for CT380 lovers. For a great grip just get a Hogue 17110 SMALL, It's perfect !!!
    Also an answer for hard cocking.... I took a 3" piece of 1/2" pvc, lined it up with the barrel, and pushed the grip down on a bench. WORKS FOR ME !!!

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  14. Does anyone make a laser for this gun yet. I have one coming any day and would like to put one on it. I have a C/T on my CW380 and love it. Thanks

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    1. I use the CT laser designed for the P380 on my CT380. Works like a champ.

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    2. Thanks for the excellent reviews that you do day in & out. I have two kahrs in my collection. A p380 with black slide & night sights and an MK9 limited with black slide & night sights. I would like to see a longer drop in replacement barrel for the P380 to bring the velocity up, as an extra 1/2"to 3/4" of barrel protruding from the slide would not really print any worse or add any significant amount of weight in my opinion and theoretically should bring the velocity up to that of the CT380/G42 specs. As far as I know there are no MFRs making any longer barrels for the P380 of any type whether thereaded or not. Suppression options would be cool but I would just like to see an increase in the velocity for the P380.

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  15. Hey Bruce, I just found your sight, wish I would have found it about six months ago.

    Have you done any testing or reviews on the CW380? I couldn't find anything on the sight. If you have not done a review / test will you be doing one or would mind doing one?

    Thanks in advance for your consideration and reply. "LaughingHawg"

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    1. As an owner of a P380, I would be duplicating what I have with the purchase of the CW380. I don't do many gun reviews because I usually have to purchase what I review. Sorry I can't help you out with a CW380 review. Here's a great source of CW380 information for you from actual CW380 owners. http://kahrtalk.com/

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