Some folks hate to admit they carry anything but big handguns. The key word is “admit.” Even a big gun guy needs to carry concealed pistols as he will travvel in a circle where clothing choices eliminate massive shooters. Enter pocket guns.
Compact, available, and quick into action, they are traditionally in calibers, from .22LR through .380. With today’s manufacturing, the size difference between pistols chambered for a .380 or for smaller rounds is minimal.
Not only that, a little inquisitiveness yields a similar sized pistol chambered for the decidedly more potent 9mm round, Kahr’s polymer framed PM9. This compact powerhouse has earned quite a following as a backup pistol.
Those are my uses for my PM9, the current apex of my search for the ultimate pocket pistol. I placed my .380 beside a PM9, and the significant differences I expected did not appear. But what did appear was potent power with the added benefit of the PM9 excellent shootablity despite being sized to conceal in pocket.
Years ago at SHOT Show, I handed the compact but somewhat heavy steel pistol on display at Kahr’s brand new booth, then moved on (I lack any vision). Justin Moon, designer and founder of the company, included a number of innovations in his new pistol that continue today.
Most notable was offsetting the feed ramp to one side, allowing the trigger mechanism to ride beside it, rather than below. This raised the hand higher, closer to the bore-line, improved control and made the frame a fraction shorter. Speaking of trigger mechanisms, Moon’s triggers are long and pretty smooth, feeling like a nice double-action revolver.
Trigger strokes rotate the cam that unlocks the spring-loaded striker safety, draws the striker to full cock and releases it to fire. There are no external safeties on Kahr pistols. The striker block immobilizes the partially cocked striker and deactivates only with a complete trigger stroke. Kahr’s have no second-strike capability, requiring the slide to cycle to pre-cock the striker.
All Kahr’s are nicely trim (0.90 of an inch thick slide), thanks to a single-column magazine and other features, and are relatively snag and sharp edge free. With widely spaced rear cocking serrations, matte finish Kahr slides are appropriately rounded to reduce any propensity for snagging. Excluding the sights, only the slide catch lever and the magazine release protrude on Kahrs.
The pistols of Kahr are lock-breeched with stainless steel, polygonally rifled barrels mating to slides sans bushing. Sizeable external extractors serve as visual or tactile loaded chamber indicators. Kahr no longer offers carbon steel and stainless steel slides and frames. Even all black pistols are stainless steel beneath the coating. An excellent idea, stainless steel’s corrosion resistance is perfect for a pistol destined to ride close to the body.
The PM is similar to the diminutive stainless steel framed MK9 (3-inch barrel; 22.1 ounces; 6 + 1 rounds), which in turn evolved from the original stainless K9 (3.6-inch barrel; 23.1 ounces; 7 + 1). The PM9 is even smaller and lighter, the P9 (3.6-inch barrel; 15 ounces, 7 + 1 rounds). It is the smallest and lightest Kahr in the 9mm stable with its 3-inch barrel, 6 + 1 capacity, and 14-ounce weight. Losing half an inch from the barrel and frame height makes this 9mm pistol perfect for pocket carry.
PM9s are available with a matte finish or black oxide coated stainless steel slide. Polymer-framed Kahrs have trimmer frames (about 20% less circumference) than steel guns, which makes toting or extracting a PM9 from the pocket a snap. Stainless steel inserts are molded into the plastic frame; a pair atop the frame’s rear where the slide reciprocates, preventing steel-to-plastic contact. The PM9 utilizes two recoil springs: One is a captured unit on a stainless steel guide rod and the other coiled around the captured unit.
The black polymer frame has an excellent combination of texturing and checkering for control. Front and back straps have blunt, effective grenade checkering. The magazine well is somewhat beveled for easier speed reloads. Because the frame is so compact, those with average and above hands can reach both the slide release lever and the magazine release button, while maintaining a shooting grip.
I easily picked up the front and rear sights on the PM9’s slide, which are dovetail mounted, and a number of configurations available. Standard are white bar/dot with night sights from MMC, Novak, Meprolight, Trijicon, and XS.
My PM9 requires a bit over 6 pounds of pressure on the smooth, matte stainless steel trigger to pop a primer. This trigger resides in an amply sized triggerguard even for massive digits, but it may not easily accommodate gloved fingers. The triggerguard is slightly undercut at the frames juncture, to raise the hand.
The PM9 arrives with two magazines, a flush base and one wearing a plus one base plate. The flush base magazine maximizes concealability, but many will find their pinkie dangling. For those finding this unacceptable, slip in the plus one magazine, realizing concealment will suffer. I prefer to keep the plus one magazine for reloads.
How to carry the pocket performing PM9? In the pocket, of course. Actually, because it is such a nice shooter, it is tempting to carry the PM9 on the belt as your primary, and that’s not really a bad idea. On the belt, the PM9’s diminutive size conceals quite well. Hidden beneath summer jackets or untucked tee shirts, in Galco’s Stow-N-Go IWB holster the PM9 just disappears.
Need even deeper concealment with upgraded attire? Galco’s tuckable will work with the PM9 and a bloused dress shirt, evading the most discerning eye. Both holsters use polymer attachments and rough-out leather.
For pocket carry, one of my favorites is the ambidextrous Nemesis by DeSantis. The synthetic material used on the exterior of this black, pliable holster is some of the tackiest around, while the pack cloth interior is quite slick. I have yet to get the Nemesis to follow the PM9 out during the draw. Foam liners also do an excellent job of breaking up the pistol’s outline.
Not satisfied with “some of the tackiest around” material, Gene DeSantis developed the Superfly, a rubberized version of the Nemesis’ exterior cloth, absolutely the tackiest stuff I’ve pocketed. Once in place, the Superfly is there to stay until you make a concerted effort to free it. The Superfly also effectively breaks up the minimal outline of the PM9. For added insurance the Superfly comes with an ambidextrous, removable outer flap that attaches with Velcro to the holster’s front.
Sights & Laserguard
I’ve been extremely pleased with the PM9’s night sights, but this article gave me a chance to evaluate alternatives. For those quick and dirty, life or death situations a pocket pistol will be called on to handle, it is hard to beat XS Sights’ Big Dots. Looking like a golf ball atop the Kahr’s slide, the XS front sight is hard to miss, and works great in conjunction with the Express rear. XS sights, like a pocket gun, are meant for use when the chips are down, and everyone is shooting and moving!
I had wanted a laser to enhance my hit potential on a pistol that will be drawn and fired by the support hand, while the pucker factor is quite high. However, I did not want to compromise the lines and balance of the PM9. The newly released Crimson Trace Laserguard (LG-437) fits below the Kahr’s barrel perfectly, attaching easily and securely. Crimson Trace’s claim of “Seamless integration with firearm frame” seems quite true.
The rubber, overmolded switch rides on the front strap for simple, instinctive activation. Using the 3.3mm diameter diode Crimson Trace was able to keep the LG-437 appropriately sized for the PM9, but I found the dot still quite visible out to even 15 yards.
The PM9 in this article is no stranger to the range or me. It is my own pistol, and has seen its share of shooting. It was good to run some of the newer loads through my pocket pal. I sent quite a few rounds downrange to see how they performed. Handheld from a bench, shooting targets 15 yards distant, this little pistol proved the folks at Kahr build shooters, even smaller shooters!
A few exercises brought no surprises. Working from the low ready or drawing from the pocket, the PM9 performed perfectly. When I added first the XS Sights, then later the LG-437, I was surprised how much they added to tactical performance.
Primarily a back-up gun, the PM9 rides in my off side pocket, ready for extraction should anything tie up my dominant hand. I did most of my shooting with my support hand, slipping in a few two handed strings and several with dominant hand only. Perhaps it is some imperceptible flex in the frame, or just the excellent ergonomics, but the PM9 controls warm 9mm loads well with a certain nonchalance, if you will.
It did not matter to the Kahr which hand I used, it gobbled up the rounds flawlessly. And for the ranges I usually practice, bad breath to about 7 yards, the Kahr worked just as well using only my support hand. This polymer pocket pistol is a shooter.
For those who feel no caliber not beginning with a “4” is worthwhile, there is the PM40 in .40. Sharing all the positive attributes of the PM9, it too makes an excellent pocket gun. However, drawing and firing the .40 with my support hand, proved a tad much for comfort.
Light, trim, exceptionally concealable, chambered for an effective caliber, and controllable, the Kahr PM9, a pocket pistol that would be hard to beat! I’d take this pocket pistol just about anywhere as a primary or backup gun.