Almost 10 years ago an upstart company broke new ground at the Shooting and Hunting Outdoor Trade Show. Normally, the SHOT Show is where all the "What's New" stuff is introduced by the big guys. But there, hidden among some hundreds of exhibitors with names like Smith & Wesson, Colt, Winchester, Remington, Ruger, and SiG, a simple, almost humble booth advertised "Kahr Arms," and the occupants waited to see what would happen.
Well, in a word, lots. Kahr's introduction of an entirely new design in a highly cancelable semiauto pistol-in a full-caliber 9mm version-rocked the house. Slimmer than any Glock, flatter than any other 9mm, and with a list of ergonomic features that would be the envy of anyone, that first Kahr garnered some serious attention. And rightfully so.
A Good Idea
That first Kahr was a simple, all-steel semiauto in 9mm, but it did something none other did. It lit a fire and then fanned the flames. Once cops and shooters everywhere got a taste of this pocket rocket they wanted more, and better.
Those first models began a legacy of performance and reliability in steel. And that was part of the problem. While the Kahr autos simply felt great in the hand, they were, well, brick-like in the weight department. At around 24 ounces, they weren't exactly boat anchors, but nonetheless, with the surge of polymer frames and lightweight aluminum alloys abounding in the gun business, Kahr had to listen.
And they did. A couple of years ago the first of the polymer-framed Kahrs arrived. The P9 and P40 (9mm and .40 S&W) were the same size as the prior versions, but weighed around 15 to 16 ounces. A big difference and yet another reason for everyone to jump back onto the Kahr bandwagon.
But there's more to all this than weight and ergonomics and that elusive "cool" factor that Kahr products have in spades. The nuts and bolts of their little guns' operation is part (most?) of what is appealing.
Fit and Finish
When you pick up a Kahr, if you're a human being at all, a couple of things go through your mind. First, if it's one of the steel versions, you think, "Gosh, this is heavier than I thought it would be." Which is bad...and good. Bad, because many people won't buy it because they are afraid it will pull their jeans down, and good, because it makes the 9mm great to shoot.
The second thing that glances off your cortex is something along the lines of, "Hey, this feels real good. Real, real good." And you're right, it does. The main reason for this good feeling is the fact the Kahr's slide is placed very low on the recoil plane, close to what's called the "centerline of the bore."
That means, unlike many autopistols, the recoil impulse of the slide running back after firing is managed nicely due to the fact the slide is so close to the top of your firing grip. In other words, it doesn't hang "way out there" on top, using the leverage involved to make the recoil seem harsher than it needs to be. Less flip, as it were.
It's all done with a bit of "Why haven't we thought of this before" engineering. Kahr's patented "offset barrel" design places the trigger mechanism beside the barrel lug, and allows the barrel and all the slide bits to be positioned lower in the frame. And that ergonomic grip frame is small enough for tiny hands and large enough for big ones. All of which adds up to a pretty nifty feeling pistol.
Justin Moon (yup, the son of "that" Moon) is the majority holder in Kahr and is the head engineer. His father, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, has nothing to do with the company or the parent company. Justin builds guns because Justin likes to build guns, simple and uncomplicated as that. He's very good at it, too.
The basic design of Kahr pistols is a striker-fired "double-action" trigger pull. The pre-loaded striker (cocked when you cycle the slide) is cocked just a tad more when you pull the exceptionally smooth and light double-action trigger. There are no external safeties and none needed. The only widgets on the outside of the pistol are the magazine release and the slide stop. Smooth and trim all around.