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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

Newest Model

Kahr introduced its first polymer frame pistol, the P9, in 2000. Nine years later, its line of plastic framed pistols has proven so popular that it now comprises a wide variety of duty and concealable handguns. The newest fighting pistol in the Kahr line is CW45, chambered for…what else?…the .45 ACP.

While it looks very similar to the earlier P45, the CW45 is intended as an economy model and so, as to keep within cost guidelines, the exterior of the slide features less machining, resulting in a slightly slab sided appearance. The front sight is pinned in place rather than using a dovetail cut as on the more expensive P-series, while slide markings are engraved rather than roll marked.

The polymer grip frame is checkered and textured to provide a non-slip purchase, while the slide stop is produced by the metal-injection-molding process rather than from a machined part. Instead of the polygonal rifling used on P-series pistols, the CW45's barrel uses cut rifling. Lastly, the CW45 comes with a single, six-round magazine.

While none of these changes decreases the pistol's ability to perform, when combined they lower the retail price considerably, money that could be spent on accessories and practice ammo.

15 Yards

One of the most attractive features of Kahr pistols is that every model operates in the same exact manner: Their controls are in the same locations and the DAO trigger pulls are the same. Once you know how to operate one Kahr, you know how to handle every single model.

The CW45's ergonomics were beyond reproach and when I lifted it to eye level it was pointing where I was looking. I also believe that the Kahr's white dot (front) and bar (rear) system allows the quickest sight alignment of any style. While the six-round magazine was a bit difficult to load to capacity, it fell free when the catch was pressed: empty or loaded; slide forward or locked back.

As the Kahr was designed as a close range defensive pistol, my friend Butch Simpson and I tested it for accuracy at 15 yards from an MTM Predator rest. While it showed a preference for Speer's Gold Dot loads, every projectile that left the muzzle went where we wanted it to, producing groups from 1.65 inches to 2.4 inches.

Butch and I then proceeded with the more serious (and enjoyable) part of the handgun testing. Using a Galco Yaqui Belt Slide holster and dual mag pouch, we took turns putting the CW45 through the following drills:

1. Three yards—draw pistol and fire three rounds on each target with an unsupported (one handed) grip. Perform a combat reload and repeat.

2. Seven yards—draw pistol and double tap each target with a supported grip. Re-holster and repeat three times.

3. Ten yards—draw pistol and fire six rounds, slow aimed fire, on target one. Reload and repeat on target two.

Despite the fact that it was firing large, heavy bullets—some at impressive velocities—the CW45 handled very well. Felt recoil was stiff, but the pistol was controllable and we were able to make fast, accurate follow-up shots.

Both the slide stop and magazine release could be manipulated without moving the pistol around in your hand, and the beveled magazine well allowed smooth, fumble-free reloads. These exertions provided us with a pair of targets with every round except three inside the confines of their respective 10 and nine rings.

I believe the CW45 would make a practical choice for anyone who desires a lightweight, easily concealable, fine shooting pistol chambered for the .45 ACP. Whether you are a law enforcement officer or an armed professional, I believe that the CW45 is capable of doing whatever you want or need a pistol to do. Best of all, in these economic times, it will save you some money in the bargain.

Paul Scarlata has served as an auxiliary police officer. He is a widely published North Carolina-based gun writer and a frequent contributor to POLICE Magazine.

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Comments (27)

Displaying 1 - 27 of 27

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


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


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.

RAY @ 3/6/2015 6:47 AM

I have owned my CW45 for about a year now. It's my first choice. It has had no issues with feed or ejection except on a rare occasion when I might limp wrist it. It is the most accurate semi-auto I have owned. It has shoot any kind of ammo I've tried. I highly recommend this pistol. You hardly can believe you are carrying a 45.

Dee @ 4/22/2015 1:32 PM

My CW45 now has about 1200 rounds through it and it's still unreliable. Sometimes it runs like it should and other times you'll have 2 failures in 12 rounds. It doesn't return to battery (fully) sometimes. Can't carry a gun that does this.

Also it shoots about 8" to the right at just 35 feet. Unreal I know. It's strange, I can shoot it form a bench rest even lining up the sides of the slide with the target and still it shoots way to the right. I think the barrel actually sits crooked inside of it. May have to junk this thing.

Anthony @ 2/26/2016 3:57 PM

Have had and carried the CW45 for a little over a year now..initially had some feed problems, but it was the added capacity aftermarket magazines...I bought some of the 7 rd. mags from Palmetto and that instantly cleared up all problems. I dunno about problems other have had, but have approx. 2000 rds thru this gun @ practical pistol competitions & twice monthly range session..It has given me no problems, I carry it daily and trust it as much as my SIG 939.

Dan @ 9/30/2016 10:42 AM

The CW line from Kahr is absolute garbage. Not sure about their other pistols but the CW pistols are even below the average 'bargain' pistol as far a quality. Save your time and money and avoid these. they might work, they might not but one thing is for sure, they are not built to last. Less expensive guns like the Ruger 9E or S&W SDVE series are way better built over the CW from Kahr.

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