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Reviews : Arsenal

Kahr Arms CW45 Pistol

Perfect for off-duty use, Kahr’s CW45 is an inexpensive but accurate fighting pistol.

January 01, 2009  |  by Paul Scarlata - Also by this author


While I am usually reticent to give such advice, I am often asked by friends and associates what are the primary requirements of a defensive handgun. Sometimes you just have to give in. So here's my list of three things to look for in a defensive handgun.

1. It must be utterly reliable with the ammunition you use in it.

2. It must be of a caliber suitable for its intended purpose.

3. It must be easy to operate.

That last requirement may bear a bit of explanation. Under the pressures of a life-threatening situation, I don't want to have to rotate, flip, squeeze, or manipulate any combination of levers, buttons, or grip safeties. For this reason I have long been a proponent of the easy-to-use Double-Action-Only (DAO) pistol.

With a DAO pistol, the drill is simple: draw pistol, aim, and fire. You get the same consistent trigger stroke for each shot, the length of which reduces the chances of an accidental discharge. In addition, to make a DAO pistol "safe" all you have to do is remove your finger from inside the trigger guard.

While there can be no denying that for really precise accuracy a single action provides the goods, such levels of accuracy are not required for defensive shooting, most of which occurs inside of seven meters. The odds of you becoming involved in a long-range shootout with a handgun range from nil to naught. So I believe the DAO trigger provides significant advantages with no downside.

My love of DAO pistols is one of the reasons that I am so fond of pistols manufactured by Kahr Arms. The Blauvelt, N.Y.-based company offers some of the most practical, easy to conceal DAO pistols on the market.

Stage-Free

The Kahr's light, stage-free trigger stroke is accomplished by means of a system in which a trigger travel of approximately 18mm rotates a cam, which then unlocks the spring-loaded striker safety, and draws the striker to full cock position before releasing it to fire the pistol. A striker block prevents the partially cocked striker from moving until it is deactivated by a complete trigger stroke.

There are no external safety devices on Kahr pistols. This gives the weapons a smooth, snag-free exterior, a very positive feature on a handgun meant to be drawn from concealment.

Breech locking is accomplished by the barrel hood bearing on the front edge of the ejection port. Upon firing, the slide moves rearward and a cam on the barrel lug pulls the barrel down, unlocking it from the slide, which continues rearward, extracting and ejecting the spent case. A recoil spring, located on a full-length guide rod under the barrel, pulls the slide forward, stripping a round from the magazine, and chambering it. As the slide goes into battery, the barrel and slide are locked together by the barrel hood moving up into the ejection port.

Using an offset barrel with the trigger mechanism beside it provides a frame with a grip close to the centerline of the bore for enhanced recoil control. A self-cleaning extractor forces powder residue away from the extractor so as to prevent fouling buildup, while a rather impressive ejector throws spent cases well clear of the pistol.

Tags: Firearms Reviews, Duty Pistols, Kahr Arms

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Comments (23)

Displaying 1 - 23 of 23

RUSS HOLLEY @ 11/19/2011 5:20 PM

I WENT AND LOOKED AT ONE TODAY @ST.ALBANS GUN AND ARCHERY, I LOVED IT AND PLAN TO MAKE IT MY NEXT FIREARM PURCHASE, THE ONLY THING I DIDNT LIKE WAS THE FACT FACT I DIDNT HAVE THE MONEY TO BUY IT TODAY.

Alan Powers @ 11/28/2011 3:08 PM

If you buy one save yourself some time and trouble. Just send it directly back to the factory and tell them it won't function. The chambers are to tight and rounds get stuck half in battery and won't eject or chamber completely. slide stop comes out under fire and the trigger bar broke.
After it came back from factory it ran fine no issues at all. Seems to me Kahr should check out their firearms better before sending them out.

JG @ 12/21/2011 12:43 PM

I have a cw9 that I have put a significant # of rounds through.

It has been 100% since the very beginning. No misfeeds no failure to feed. I primarily shoot tulammo but carry HPs

Sam M. Colorado @ 1/13/2012 9:31 AM

I recently purchased this pistol and have since put about 350 rounds through it. Not one single jam and i used several different ammunition's.
I would recommend this pistol for anyone looking to carry concealed or if you just want a reliable shooter. This gun is smooth, the trigger pull is just amazing. and it's dead accurate too.

Augie M. @ 1/17/2012 10:00 AM

I love the CW45. Purchased mine recently. Put 300 rounds thru it so far without any FTF or FTE issues. I carry a Glock 21 on duty so having the same function as a Glock so there's no need to alter muscle memory. Nice, well designed trigger. Perfect for off-duty, so compact and concealable its hard to believe you're carrying a .45.

tom shelar @ 4/16/2012 9:57 AM

good review and good comments. I have a cw45, just put about 200 rounds of mixed ammo through it, no jams, no problems. Very accurate and controloble. Also have a Sig and a Kimber, which both cost almost 2 time as the Kahr, and would put it up against either for accuracy and dependability.

Dave @ 8/9/2012 11:05 AM

I bought the CW45 a few months ago for CC and I'm thinking of getting rid of it. The thing just won't function reliably. Constant failures to feed. At leat 2 per 6 round magazine. I've now spent alot of money on .45 trying to break it in but it doesn't seem to be working. The take down pin comes out too while shooting. Not at all what I expected from KAHR. If I can get a fair price for it I'd sell it but would feel bad knowing it doesn't work well, I wouldn't lie about why I'm selling it so who would buy it? Maybe just trading it in and keeping my mouth shut is the way to go. Contacting KAHR sounds like a pain plus I'd probably have to pay out some money to get it looked at by them (shipping), already spent about $100 in ammo for it.

j owens @ 9/10/2012 1:31 PM

i enjoy my cw45 for concealed carry, the part i like most is the fact that my 1911 colt and kimber magazines work with the kahr cw 45 with no jamms and i can uses 8 -10 round magazines if i need to.

Andrew @ 11/7/2012 10:31 AM

First day at the range was very dissapointing. I recorded FTF's using UMC FMJ's, approx. 1 every 2 mags. Using TAP's I had a FTF on every round. At this point Im now pissed. Speers failed every other round. I finally just happened to look at one of the failed HP's and saw a dent in the radii about half way down from the projectile. Never saw or heard anything like it before. I looked at the feed ramp and noticed what an extreme angle the barrell was machined too. Apparently as the round feeds into the chamber it hits and intersects the nicely polished ramp, dents the round enough to knock it out of center and disrupts the feed. So for the hell of it I bought a box of Hornady extreme defense FXT rounds w/ the poly insert and they feed with no problem. Its what I use for carry, but I guess Im a dead MF if I ever have to use other rounds. If anyone has a cheap fix, please advise.

Kim Long @ 1/13/2013 7:49 PM

I just recently bought a CW45, after renting one about 3-4 times. I believe it's a very accurate handgun. I've had a few FTEs, but not many. My main beef with it is that it's extracting the rounds right back in my face. It's either parting my hair or pinging me in the face. Anyone else run into this? I don't know if that's common or if I need to contact Kahr for an extractor repair or something. Other than that, it's a very comfortable firearm for me to use.

JT @ 1/24/2013 7:15 PM

I had same issue as Kim L. post 1/13/2013
Kept ejecting back toward my face & head, then slide did not lock open
when mag was empy. Not sure if i want to keep it, need reliable CC weapon.

Dave Hill @ 2/7/2013 4:56 PM

I have both a CW9 and CW45...both have functioned with every kind of ammo I've run through them...100%...I love these guns...the only things I've changed for the sights...Novak rear and DP fiber optic in the front...also, on the 45 a Crimson Trace LG-434 laser was added.

Andrew @ 2/15/2013 7:28 PM

Update from 11/07/2012. In my quest to attempt in making my CW45 a more reliable peacemaker in solving my FTF problems, I had an old Round very fine Honing Stone and began the process of making a radius at the intersecting point of the feed ramp and the entrance of the chamber of the barrel. I figured if I could round that area, at least during the pressure of the feed pushing the round forward would minimize the impact and smooth out the HP rounds that I am having trouble with. Well it did help with the feed problem. FMJ’s now feed with no issues, and my Hornady FXT’s which basically have the same projectile configuration as an FMJ, but with a Poly insert still feed well. But yet my standard hollow points fail. I believe due to the lack of a radius at the projectile head. It should not matter. Seems like most everyone else have no issues with HP’s in this thread. So back to square one, I looked at the Mag’s. Noticed that when I load 4 rounds, the bullet casings are against one another all in a line the way it should be. But when I load # 5 & #6 there is a separation space and angle created, leaving about 1/16 as it angle’s out to the projectile. So I broke down the pistol, put it back together minus the spring and did a manual cycle in slow mo. As I moved the slide pushing the round forward and because of the space now created in round 5 & 6, I saw the nose of the bullet now move downward making it further out of the alignment path that should be taking place, down into the steep angled feed ramp leading to the chamber. I want this to accept normal HP's. I will try to mod the mag's. Does anyone else have a gap between # 5 & 6 round in the mag? If so you can push down on the head and see air.

Dan @ 2/24/2013 7:20 PM

I have the CW 45 and 9mm. Both are simple, reliable and easy to hit where aimed. Great value!

Vince @ 3/2/2013 8:45 PM

I have the CW 45 and it wont feed JHP's. It will feed FMJ's with the occasional FTF. I have the stock 6 round mag, 2 Kahr 7 round mags, and 2 15 round 1911 mags. The 6 round mag never fails, one of the 7 rounds mags fails now and then, the other 7 round never fails. the 15 round mags are very unreliable. I am just getting to the 200 round mark so if the break in mumbo jumbo is correct i should see a reliable gun emerge soon. we will see. for now my glock 19 is my CC gun and the Kahr 45 is home defense after my ruger p-85, and the ak-47. hopefully i will never have to shoot enough bullets in a row to get to the Kahr!!!!! So far i have been putting ARMSCOR and federal FMJ's thru it. I will try some name brand stuff next, Winchester etc. I dont know if i will ever trust it with JHP's. It was very accurate at the range, but the recoil rivals my 44 magnum. Plus it has sharp edges everywhere and 200 rounds hamburger'd my hands. I will wear gloves at the range from now on shooting it!! I like its double action trigger, i like the looks of it, i like the caliber, it is smaller than my glock 19, easily concealed. I just dont want to be ejecting the mag, locking back the slide, insert mag and hit the thumb release on the slide to cock the weapon, when Jared Loghner is shooting screaming and running my direction!!

Danny W. Burdick @ 6/2/2013 9:25 AM

I have a CW45 I fired it yesterday at an indoor range...and wow this thing is scary accurate...the very first shot out the barrel was dead on center x bullseye. After that each round I fired I walked it thru each of the numbers on the target at will. No feed problems, I also put a houge handall jr on it...and it thickened the grip up perfectly for me. I was at the range to try some firearms I had never fired I shot a sig and a glock 19...I am keeping the CW45
She's a keeper....smaller, lighter, and just as accurate as any competitor.

steve @ 6/8/2013 7:00 AM

ANY ONE USING A 45 OR 9 MM WITH ALUM AMMO WILL HAVE PROBLEMS WITH SHELLS STRICKING IN THE RECEIVER

R D @ 7/11/2013 6:51 PM

I just bought a new c w 45 and I have not had any kind of problem I bought it brought it home and I have went through 3 boxes of web ammo and perfect except it was very hard to load the mag I'm happy

Craig @ 9/14/2013 7:43 PM

Unfortunately, Mr. Scalata speaks of "law enforcement officer", those who are paid to use force alwa

JJ @ 9/30/2013 3:47 PM

I recommend avoiding Kahrs except maybe the P380 and the PM9. Even then, the Sig P238 is a far better pistol, as is the Glock 26. Kahrs in the .40 and .45 are only fair in the PM series... and IMO dangerous in the cheapie series (CW/CM) they could let you down when it all is on the line.

Robert @ 6/26/2014 5:30 AM

Recently purchased a gently used cm-9. Carried Glocks for years on and off duty as a security contractor. Really like the Glocks, but needed something lighter and thinner for my "day job". I've had no issues with my Kahr, and it conceals in a Don Hume IWB leather holster (purchased from Kahr Arms) extremely well. I carried an airweight 'smith for years, and when I decided on a Kahr, it was because it's weight and size was similar to the revolver, with more capacity and a thinner profile. I'm looking forward to the release of the CM-45 later this Summer, as a heavier bullet option for winter months.
As far as all of the operating problems people mention in many of these forums, one has to wonder if they have an agenda, or if they are unfamiliar with the laws of physics? Light guns+heavy bullets= lots of recoil. While I will grant that with the cost of ammo these days, a 200 round break-in is expensive, but worth it. Cheap ammo can lead to expensive problems, too.

Dave @ 7/7/2014 1:48 PM

Commented on the CW45 almost 2 years ago about problems with it feeding properly. I never did sell it hoping that more 'break-in' would do it. Well, it still isn't exactly reliable. Jams a lot less now but still happens. Gun can be perfectly clean and it will still happen, or it can have 150 rounds through it. Never know. I've fired everything through it from steel case to high end SD ammo. Feeds fine sometimes and then bam! Jammed up. Round is stuck half way into the chamber and the slide won't move. Not exactly a conceal carry gun now is it? Just use it at the range for plinking. Did have KAHR send me a new spring for the take down pin, that seemed to do the trick for that problem. Told them about the feed problems and they said shoot it more. Whatever, it's not like they're going to send me expensive 45acp to shoot it.

john malloy @ 9/14/2014 12:50 PM

I recently purchased a khar cw45 and I usually conduct a test fire with this weapon by not cleaning through a series of 400 rounds to see if it could sustain long functionality. The khar is a very reliable defense handgun from my opinion. Not one Jam or malfunction.

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