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