I am still finding that people like to go out and find the smallest gun they can comfortably shoot. I used to always brush off tiny 9mm pistols like the Kahr CM9 as useless until recently. Within the last couple of years, I have decided to not dress around my gun anymore. For this reason, I needed a small, single stack, 9mm pistol that could do a couple things. It needed to be easy to shoot and be reliable. From the research I conducted, there were alot of options that have crept up almost every year for the last five or so years. The Kahr CM9 still seems to hold the standard for having the best ratio of size, weight, reliability, durability, shootability, and price. For this reason, I figured that it couldn’t hurt to put it to the test.
Kahr has been around since the 90’s and has been at the forefront of developing high quality single stack pistols that suit the concealed carry market. Usually you will find their pistols for upwards of $500. Kahr pistols did not really become a bigger name on the market until the last 6 or so years. I think the CM9 is the one pistol that really put them on the map where they are today. The Kahr CM9 is basically the budget version of their PM9 which is their smallest polymer pistol offering. Kahr launched a full line of “budget” pistols that parallel their premium lineup around the time that the market started to show an interest in single stack pistols that cost less than $400.
The Kahr CM9 is not the first tiny 9mm pistol I’ve shot. In fact, the Beretta Nano came before it and has been shot thousands of times more. I was drawn into buying the CM9 because everyone considered it the best overall carry pistol for the money. To me this was a claim that I had to investigate. Luckily I had just sold a pistol and was able to use the funds to get the Kahr CM9 and a little ammo to start.
The size of the CM9 is the first thing that you will notice when you see it. The pistol has just enough room on the grip for a two finger hold with a height of only 4 inches. This dimension is almost exact when the flush fitting 6 round magazine is inserted. The grip has quite a rough texturing to it that really holds onto you in all conditions.
The barrel length on the pistol is at a flat 3 inches with an OAL of just under 5.5 inches. This is a pretty tiny pistol compared to some of the other ones on the market. All in all, it is basically just a smaller version of the other polymer pistols that Kahr sells.
When the CM9 was designed, the goal was to give the market an affordable PM9. To accomplish this, corners were cut on purpose in order to lower the cost of production. The result is a pistol that costs roughly $300 with feature changes that some people may have a hard time swallowing. For the most part, the CM9 is a PM9 with a couple of feature changes. Some of the changes are very apparent such as the lack of milling on the slide, the staked front sight with no night sights, and one 6 round magazine. The one feature you have to get into the gun to see is the standard/button rifling that they used for the barrel.
For me, the changes were not all that bad since this pistol was going to be a minimalist pistol that I was not expecting to use all day for years on end. I am more into the function of a firearm instead of features, so I didn’t really see an issue. For $300 I couldn’t really argue with it as a deal at the time. Plus, I like the sight picture that the CM9 has over the three dot sights. I feel that it is much simpler and quicker to use.
After having the Kahr CM9 for just under a year, I have a little under 1000 rounds through it. Most of the guns that I carry get twice that in the first week. But as I said before, this pistol was not for serious everyday use. This pistol basically is there to serve as the one gun that I will carry if I can not carry any other without printing. I am obsessed with concealment and any printing is unacceptable to me.
The first time I handled the CM9 was kind of eye opening. Compared to other pistols like the Sig P290 or the Beretta Nano, the Kahr CM9 had a terribly tight recoil spring. It definitely required you to be deliberate in order to power stroke it or lock it to the rear. The serrations on the slide helped me get a good grip and rack the slide, but I can understand why some people may find the pistol intimidating when they first try to work the action.
When I first took this pistol out to shoot, I ran a few different types of ammo through it. I shot 100 rounds of Tulammo, 100 rounds of Fiocchi 115gr, and 100 rounds of good old Winchester NATO. This wasn’t really to break it in, but to test the handling characteristics of the pistol. It was basically a test to see how well the tight recoil spring did its job of buffering the recoil. Personally I think the recoil spring does a good job buffering even the hot NATO ammo and throwing the sights back on target. The one thing that made it seem a bit less effective was the grip. The grip has sharp texturing like a Glock Gen4 on steroids that will rock your hand pretty hard. After shooting a few magazines of NATO ammo real fast with a firm grip, it feels like you may have cut your hand. By comparison, the Beretta Nano felt like I was shooting a mid-sized pistol when I was running NATO ammo through it.
The trigger on the Kahr line of pistols is said to be the best for double action only pistols. I found the trigger to be very smooth and the travel to be relatively short. The weight seemed to stay within the 6-8 pound advertised range. When shooting, I found that the trigger was just a little too accessible. My trigger finger was able to wrap around the trigger and rub on my support hand during two handed shooting. This wasn’t a bad thing, but it was different.
What was bad was that my trigger finger would take a beating on the recoil. I would feel a pinch whenever I shot with my trigger finger pad extended past the trigger. Upon further evaluation, my finger was getting smacked by the trigger guard during recoil. It is unnatural to have my trigger finger pad directly on the trigger due to the range of motion, so I just shot the pistol until I didn’t feel the pinch anymore.
I must say that shooting the Kahr CM9 is pretty simple and easy to do. I was impressed with how quickly I was able to get killer groups with the pistol, despite the beating I knew I was going to get with every shot. I expected to miss alot from anticipating the pain. Nope, not at all.
The pistol has never malfunctioned during the time I have used it, but little things have crept up here and there that make me think that the corners were cut too aggressively. I will say that the pistol has “functioned perfectly since I got it. I just feel that the pistol has some things to work on to make it a top notch performer.
The sights seem to consistently be the worst part of the pistol. The rear sight on my CM9 literally drifted out to the right. I did not notice it until around the 600 round range. The sight base was hanging out of the dovetail and i was able to pull it out with no resistance. When I put it back in, the sight seemed to get tighter with the more pressure I put on it towards the left. Perhaps the dovetail actually tightens to the left and you simply push to the right to extract it.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have seen the sights give out on the Kahr budget pistols. I checked out a TP9 recently and when I simply ran the action, the rear sight displaced to the right and it was able to fall out under its own weight. This pistol was fresh out of the box and the sight was basically just there for decoration at that point. The guys behind the counter at the store just laughed and made remarks about how that is just how Kahr pistols are.
The single magazine you get with the Kahr is under alot of pressure to last since it is all you have. My magazine has never “failed” to work, but the front portion of the follower did chip away. I only noticed it after taking the gun apart for cleaning, but it was still kind of off-putting. Now this is not a magazine unique to the Kahr budget line, but it is still worthy of note.
On a good note, the people in the customer service call center are straight to the point, but are very fast about getting you through the process. It is as if there is a long wait, or they are instructed to get you off the phone as quickly as possible. Either way, they try to get you the info you need and get you taken care of. Policy aside, it seems to be a very efficient team.
When my magazine follower broke, I was expecting questions like what my serial number is and my name so they can put it on the record. Instead, the customer service representative quickly asked me what my address was. The part didn’t arrive to me the next day, but it was at my house inside the 3-5 day period.
When it came to the sight issue, however, Kahr wanted me to ship my slide to them and pay for shipping while they covered the warranty repairs. This is unacceptable in my mind. I really don’t like the fact that I have to pay for shipping when this is an issue with manufacturing, which the warranty covers. I would think that Kahr would be like any other company and offer a prepaid shipping label to have the item shipped back.
Kahr has a 5 year limited warranty on their pistols. I personally like to see lifetime warranties on my pistols, but five years should be plenty to find any weak spots in the pistol. Also remember that five years of running a gun is a long time to some people who go through guns like I do.
The Kahr CM9 was a risk buy for me. It wasn’t that much of a risk in hindsight, but I was putting money down with very little information to go off of. The majority of reviews on this pistol only point towards it being awesome and perfect after 250 rounds. For me, I found this pistol to be hard to hate or love. I like how solid the pistol functions and how convenient the size of it is, but I am worried that the sights have been made too cheaply. I like that the trigger is easy to manipulate and get good hits with, but I am not a fan of the fact that it is so punishing to shoot if your hand is not protected by an armor of callouses.
This is very rare for me, but I just don’t have much of a feeling about this gun as being either good or bad. It is like a tug-of-war where no side can make noticeable progress. Every advantage has a disadvantage that is excusable in some way. I do not regret my purchase and I intend to use this pistol in the future. But my experiences do affect my ratings.
This pistol is one of the smallest pistols on the market that remains functional. There are still few pistols who can make this claim.
If you have an awesome transmission(trigger) and a killer engine(reliable action), it doesn’t mean anything if the steering(sights) goes out every 2000 miles.
The Kahr CM9 shot every round I put through it and never threatened to fail in its function. Even though the sights fell out of the dovetail and the magazine follower broke, I still feel that this platform is generally solid.
I feel that the Kahr CM9 does what it was designed to do pretty well. It shoots a 9mm out of a small platform suitable for very deep concealment. But I can not say that it did it without shedding parts along the way or punishing my hand.
I think that this pistol should come with a lifetime warranty, but that is what I want to see with all of my pistols. I am glad I caught these issues in the first year alone. But I think it is not cool to expect the customer to cover shipping for a manufacturers defect.
Overall Rating- 16/25
I am not under any written, verbal, or implied contract to give this product a predetermined rating. The opinions presented here are my own, and I alone decided the rating for this product, per my personal experiences with it.