There are dozens of compact pistols available for the American shooter. Some are economy models that use economical parts and components. Others use more expensive components and are built with a greater attention to detail. In the end, it’s up to you to decide what you can afford and are willing to pay for.
Though their polymer-framed pistols have been very popular for their price point, Kahr Arms has a full line of solid steel pistols. Recently, I had the good fortune to work with the model K9. This particular semi-automatic pistol arrived with a matte black stainless steel finish.
The K9 has a 3.5-inch barrel with 1-in-10-inch polygonal rifling. Its overall length is 6 inches, and it only has a height of 4.5 inches. Made of solid steel construction, this compact pistol does have a little heft and weighs 23 ounces empty. This would prove beneficial at the range.
For this particular model, Kahr has applied what they call their matte black stainless steel finish to the pistol. This finish is very tough, being both corrosion- and scratch-resistant. Hogue wraparound grips surround the frame and offer the user a solid purchase on the pistol. This particular model came with drift-adjustable iron sights atop the slide. The front sight had a white dot and the rear sight a white bar in the center. Other sight configurations are available from Kahr, including Novak and Tritium night sights.
A double-action-only (DAO) trigger activates the K9. While the trigger press is long and deliberate, it is also smooth and consistent. As for manual controls, the K9 has only three, including the trigger. The other two are the magazine release button and the slide stop located on the left side of the frame.
My K9 pistol arrived in a hard plastic box with two magazines, a 7-round version and an 8-round extended version. All Kahr pistol magazines are a single-column affair. The Kahr K9 also arrived with the obligatory trigger lock and owner’s manual.
I truly wanted to give the Kahr K9 a thorough workout, so I set aside six different loads from five companies—CorBon, DoubleTap, Federal, Hornady and Wolf. The Gold line from Wolf uses brass cases as opposed to their normal lacquered steel. To truly test the K9’s eating habits, I made sure that I had lightweight, fast-moving loads and slower, heavier loads. Several styles of controlled expansion projectiles were used as well as full metal jacket cartridges.
My chronographing chores gave the results I would have expected from a compact pistol with 3.5-inch barrel. The 147-grain loads were all subsonic, and the 115- and 124-grain ammunition bested 1,000 feet per second (fps). Not surprisingly, the CorBon 115-grain DPX +P load traveled better than 1,100 fps.
From a distance of 10 yards, with my arms resting on a range bag for stability, I ran a number of slow-fire strings with all the above ammunition. I discovered that from that distance, iron sights were set and zeroed perfectly in the factory. All rounds impacted at point of aim.
While every load was able to print groups below 2 inches from 10 yards, the K9 seemed to prefer the Federal 147-grain Hydra-Shok ammunition. This load clustered tightly and produced an amazing half-inch group. Of course, a 2-inch group from 10 yards is definitely “Minute of Bad Guy,” and any of the included personal defense loads would get the trick done.
During my evaluation period, I ran several drills with the pistol to include single-handed and off-hand drills. The slide locked open on both magazines reliably when they ran dry. I can recall a single stovepipe-type stoppage and that was immediately remedied with a quick tap and rack.
In the holster department, I used the Crossbreed SuperTuck Deluxe and MicroClip. The Crossbreed inside-the-waistband design has become my new favorite and I’ve been wearing it on a daily basis for two months as these words are typed out.
The extra weight of the all-steel pistol was a boon for recoil management and successive shooting. Even the heavier-weight loads offered little in the way of felt recoil. Getting back on target for follow-up shots was simple enough.
My children, ages 14, 16 and 21 all took turns running the gun. Paxton, my daughter, has become an accomplished shooter and enjoyed working with the gun.
Also, colleague William spent a morning on the range with me and ran the K9. William is a veteran police officer and small arms trainer. He commented that the polymer-framed Kahr pistols had never really been his “thing,” but the all-steel K9 definitely had his endorsement.
All told, somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 rounds of ammunition were run through the Kahr K9 pistol. Only one stoppage was encountered. Like any other machine, I suspect that the more the gun is used, the more it will smoothly. Despite having a DAO trigger, precise shooting was not an issue. Credit goes to Kahr for installing such a smooth and consistent trigger mechanism.
When closely examining the K9, it is obvious that a great deal of attention to deal and meticulous machining went into the production of the pistol. It is easily a “Cadillac” in the compact pistol realm.
Purchasing a quality firearm can be a lifetime investment. A modern, high-quality pistol or rifle should last the user for their lifetime and, if cared for properly, be passed down to their children and even their grandchildren. In our modern world of cheaply made, disposable goods, a quality firearm is one of the few possessions that will quite literally outlast the owner. If your income level will allow it, spending a few hundred dollars more on an item that your heirs will someday own doesn’t seem all that much by comparison. Consider the Kahr K9 today.