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Reviews : Arsenal

Kahr Arms PM9 Subcompact Pistol

Small, smooth, and accurate, this semi-auto is great for concealed carry on or off duty.

September 01, 2005  |  by Mike Detty - Also by this author

Paint It Black

A couple of years back Kahr decided to discontinue carbon steel guns and manufacture all slides and steel frames from stainless steel. Most consumers liked the corrosion resistance of stainless.

However, Kahr quickly discovered that not all consumers wanted bright and shiny guns. In dim light, the glint of a stainless slide being withdrawn by an undercover operative could lead to fatal complications.

To solve this problem and darken the stainless slide, Kahr flirted briefly with  baked-on Teflon used by many manufacturers but found the results less than satisfactory. The economy of the finish was appealing to Kahr, but it soon discovered that the cosmetics were short-lived. Kahr tried another process that required substantial heat. This actually changed the metal's molecular structure and made it more brittle. Finally, Kahr developed its proprietary Tungsten Diamond-Like-Coating (Tungsten DLC), which uses a process called Plasma Assisted Chemical Vapor Deposition to coat the parts.

Tungsten DLC is applied in a vacuum chamber where cathodes transform the tungsten into a gas that plates the parts. The process increases the surface hardness to a whopping 90 on the Rockwell C scale. Just for comparison, your average 1911 frame will register about 28 to 30 on the same scale.

One of the best selling points of the Diamond-Like Coating is that the parts are never heated over 300 degrees Fahrenheit, so there's no need to worry about the parts losing their temper, softening, or becoming brittle. Also, only about two microns of the material is deposited on the slide. In case you're wondering, that amounts to about 80 millionths of an inch-far too little to affect the parts' function or fit.

Kahr's Tungsten DLC thoroughly impresses me. Not only does it perform its intended task of coloring the bright stainless steel to a matte, non-reflective black, it also provides a tough, corrosion-proof covering that is virtually scratch proof. And it will not wear even when subjected to extensive holster carry. For a gun that will be used exclusively for concealed carry, the Tungsten DLC finish makes a lot of sense.

Range Time

I have to admit that I was prepared to cut the Kahr PM9 a little slack. After all, it's an abbreviated version of an already small gun that's biggest selling feature is its tiny size and its ability to be secreted just about anywhere. But the trimmed dimensions of the PM9 didn't really affect its accuracy.

Firing from a rest, I was able to place five shots into a group just 2.25 inches with Winchester's 147-grain Silver Tip hollow points. Keep in mind, this is from a subcompact semi-auto pistol with a barrel just three inches in length and a double-action-only trigger. That's remarkable.

Moving from the range out to the desert, I put the PM9 through some other exercises that did nothing but increase my appreciation of the little Kahr. I set up a Target Pro mannequin at seven yards and used my PACT timer to see just how quickly I could empty the gun. From the first shot to the last, my time averaged less than 2.5 seconds and all seven rounds impacted in an area smaller than a grapefruit. Splits ran about 35/100ths of a second, and I had a solid sight picture for each shot. For a gun that weighs just 14 ounces empty, that's incredible.

I did most of the shooting with the flush-fitting six-round magazine, with my pinky tucked underneath the floorplate. The extended seven-round mag provides the length needed for a comfortable firing grip but does sacrifice a certain degree of concealability.

I really like Kahr's PM9 pistol. It's lightweight, reliable, and more accurate than any gun its size has a right to be. Its petite dimensions and Tungsten DLC finish make it perfect for deep concealment or even off-duty carry. If you have the need for a small semi-auto take a look at the Kahr PM9. It has a lot to offer.

Mike Detty is an NRA-certified rifle, pistol, and shotgun instructor. A certified rangemaster and competition shooter, Detty served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps and holds a degree in criminal justice from the University of Arizona.

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Tags: Subcompact Pistols, Firearms Reviews, Kahr Arms

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