At one time it was fashionable to look down upon American made products and elevate others to a “European Standard.” The subject of this review puts a lie to that premise. The Kahr pistol is made in the USA, and it is a firearm any firm, anywhere, would do well to emulate.
|The K 40|
Double action only, striker-fired pistols have gained a considerable following within the decade. The Glock was arguably not the first pistol to use such a design but has become the most popular. The Kahr followed with the model K 9; a compact pistol chambered for the popular 9mm Luger cartridge. The K 9 is best described as a small, light, single column, 9mm pistol with a double action only, firing mechanism. The pistol has many sparkling innovations, including an unusual offset feed ramp that helps make the pistol more compact than competing designs. It is important to understand that the Kahr is not a cut down service pistol, with all of the compromises inherent in that breed. The Kahr is a purpose designed compact pistol. Nothing is perfect, but the Kahr is a fine specimen of its type. The Kahr has been criticized as heavy for a concealment pistol at 27 ounces, but as a result, it recoils less than other small pistols. The pistol’s slide is a bit heavy and hard to pull back to load the weapon. However, this is the result of heavy recoil springs that control the weapon’s energetic recoil. This reduces battering and felt the recoil. According to reports, Kahr produces a version dubbed the Lady Kahr that is easier to handle. This pistol has standard recoil springs and is not rated for +P or +P+ loads. It is available only in 9mm Luger, to the best of our knowledge. So, the few criticisms of the Kahr are a result of design, a design that aids in controlling such a light and powerful weapon. The tradeoff seems acceptable to the author.
Slide-note positive firing pin block A more recent Kahr and a personal favorite of the author is the K40. This pistol is chambered in the powerful .40 caliber Smith and Wesson cartridge, a considerable improvement over the 9mm Luger. The Kahr has been strengthened in certain critical areas, but outside dimensions are the same as the 9mm pistol. Overall length is only 6.1 inches. The weight of this pistol is steady at 27 ounces. Magazine capacity is six rounds, making the K40 a seven shooter. Kahr pistols use a Browning type lockup similar to the SIG pistol. The trigger action is double action only. As the slide is brought to the rear, the striker is brought to a semi-cocked position. A positive firing pin block or “drop safety” stop the striker from taking forward motion. Pressure on the trigger fully cocks and releases the striker, firing the pistol and repeating the process.
K 40 in Alessi custom holster The Kahr’s glass smooth trigger action is the weapon’s only safety feature, aside from a positive firing pin block. This long action is similar to a revolver but smoother than most. Like the Glock pistol, the Kahr demands a holster for safe carry. Our example is carried in a well-fitted and executed strong side holster from Lou Alessi.
The Kahr is not as square or blocky as some modern pistols, at least its straight lines are more pleasing than others commonly encountered. The pistol is hardly larger than a Walther or Beretta .380 caliber pistol but only slightly more difficult to control and use well.
One of the more noticeable assets of the Kahr is the high visibility sights. These sights are good hi-profile types, well suited to personal defense. They have the white dot and bar inlay known as the Bardot system. While the sights offer fast acquisition on the man sized targets, when perfectly lined up they also allow the accurate fire to a considerable distance.
The Bardot system as implemented on the K 40
The heart of the Kahr is its trigger action. At about seven pounds it is not too light for safety but is smooth above all else. Some care must be taken that the trigger finger does not strike the support hand in the rapid fire, but the trigger action will make rapid, controlled fire a sure thing with practice.
Pebble grain grip makes firing easier, reduces hand shift Remember to fire the Kahr with a trigger position like that on a double action revolver. The pistol is not overly heavy for daily carry. It weighs about the same as my six shot Detective Special .38. The K40 weighs about the same as my Officers Model .45 as well. The Kahr is flatter and more compact than either of the Colt models. There are few sharp edges and no protruding hammer.
More than a few cops will be trading in their backup .38’s for the Kahr as it makes inroads into snub nose .38 territory. I have done so myself, carrying the K40 in an Alessi ankle holster to back up my duty Colt.
Defense handguns should be compact enough for comfortable carry, reliable above all else, accurate enough for the task at hand, and powerful enough to do the job with a minimum of well-delivered shots. The Kahr is reliable. We have fired nearly 1,000 rounds in this pistol with no malfunctions of any type. Many weapons with such short slides are finicky about ammunition while others require a break in period. Not so the Kahr, it came out of the box running with virtually any load. At this point, I would be surprised by a malfunction.
Short barrel .40 caliber performance is good. The .40 caliber Smith and Wesson is the first auto-pistol round designed around a hollow point bullet and seems to be designed with short barrel performance in mind.
Baseplate helps finger purchase Performance is excellent on all counts. The .40 caliber offers a good balance of penetration and expansion. Early reports show good effectiveness.
I have fired the K40 a great deal but broke it out again for this review. Most of the bench rest groups were fired at 15 yards; a fair assessment of a defense oriented pistol. We were able to secure a few good groups to 25 yards, but the pistol’s short sight radius tends to make 25-yard groups more a test of the shooter than the pistol.
Sights of the K 40 line up quickly in maximum speed drills What counts is getting the gun into action quickly and scoring a hit. Rapid double taps, speed rocks, and failure to stop drills were readily carried out. The hostage rescue drill, an important part of any officer’s tactical training, was carried out in good order.
We tested a new load from Norma that gave outstanding results. Norma is a respected name in the firearms field but sometimes not common on dealer shelves. The new Norma handgun loads are specially loaded to stringent specifications by Black Hills Ammunition. The 155-grain hollow point is moly coated to aid in accuracy and decrease cleaning problems. This load offers an excellent balance of expansion and penetration. This defense load broke 1,100 fps even from the Kahr’s short barrel.
Norma 155 grain hollowpoint after being recovered from tissue simulant Norma 155 grain hollowpoint after being recovered from tissue simulant
For the majority of combat shooting tests, we made use of the famous “blue box” reloaded ammunition from the Black Hills. Accuracy and function were indistinguishable from factory new loads. We also fired a number of our handloads using the Magnus cast bullet. Thankfully, the Kahr barrel is well suited to cast bullets. Accuracy was good, and we will be able to use this cost-effective load as a resource for increased training. The combat drills left us with renewed confidence in this capable pistol.
Internal parts of Kahr show good design and excellent polish Any criticism? A quick rub down test shows the Kahr’s trigger guard angles are a bit sharp for a carry gun. This is a minor criticism, easily corrected and hardly a flaw. A few seconds rubbing your hands on a handgun, some people use a nylon stocking, will show the weapon’s rough edges and points of concern. The Kahr has fewer than most.
The Kahr K40 is one of the finest concealment handguns available. There is nothing that quite fits its niche in the scheme of things. Even better, here is a pistol that gives real protection and a sense of pride of ownership to the user.
|Brand||Type||15 yard groups|
|Norma Diamond Line||155 gr. JHP||1.5 inch|
|Black Hills||180 gr. JHP||1.8 inch|
|Black Hills||180 gr. FMJ Reload||1.4 inch|
|Handload||140 gr. Magnus Accurate #5||1.5 inch|