Kahr Arms just introduced a new subcompact pistol chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge. Weighing less than a pound loaded and only .75 inches wide, this new pistol is small and light enough that it should serve just about anyone's deep concealment and/or backup needs.
Kahr has been working on this pistol for more than two years. I first previewed it at the 2007 SHOT (Shooting Hunting Outdoor Trade) show in Las Vegas and was excited to see how small the gun was. About a year later, I had a chance to fire a functioning prototype at a writers' meeting. At 15 yards I was able to fire a magazine of bullets into a group smaller than the size of my fist. I couldn't wait to get my hands on an actual production sample and my test and evaluation sample of the Kahr P380 showed up in February.
By Popular Demand
I've had a couple of months now to shoot, carry, and enjoy the P380. And I have to say, I'm excited about this little gun. It's accurate, reliable, and easy to carry. If someone needs to carry a gun concealed, I can't imagine them passing on the new Kahr because of its size or weight.
According to Frank Harris, Kahr's vice president of sales and marketing, it was repeated requests for a .380 pistol that inspired the company to start work on the P380.
"Our sales are driven by the concealed carry crowd," said Harris. "We kept hearing from our distributors that they couldn't get enough Kel-Tec 3AT pistols, a subcompact .380, and we knew that Kel-Tec was making thousands and thousands of them. We also knew that a certain portion of the gun-buying public was willing to spend more for a premium product. And that's where we position ourselves. Not to knock Kel-Tec's gun or the nearly identical Ruger LCP, but we spend a little more time on our guns and use superior materials. Our gun features a Lothar Walther barrel, and we include two magazines with every gun."
Polymer and Steel
It's obvious by looking at the Kahr P380 that it is a quality piece. The patents that already cover the rest of the Kahr pistol line are also used on the P380. However, even though Kahr used its other polymer guns as a template for the P380, none of the tiny gun's parts will interchange with other Kahr pistols. Every P380 part is made explicitly for this particular gun.
Kahr actually molds a one-piece metal insert into the polymer frame. According to Harris the metal insert not only makes the frame more rigid it also gives the slide a steel rail to ride on. The whole idea is to not to have any metal to plastic contact that will accelerate wear.
The P380 uses a stainless steel slide and its edges are nicely rounded for concealed use. Its dust cover has grooves that engage the frame's steel insert, which protrudes from both sides of the plastic in the frame's dust cover and aids in guiding the slide. A MIM (Metal Injection Molded) steel magazine release is used on the P380 to prevent wear and breakage on that part.
As Harris mentioned, the Kahr P380 features a match grade barrel blank produced by the renowned barrel maker Lothar Walther. Kahr does the final machining, contours and then chambers the barrel at its manufacturing facility in Worcester, Mass. Kahr nickel plates the barrel for corrosion resistance.
All of Kahr's pistols fire from a locked breech and the P380 is no exception. In a lightweight gun a locked breech design helps diminish felt recoil. Also aiding in the reduction of muzzle flip is Kahr's patented offset feedramp/barrel lug. This set up allows the trigger bar to ride next to the barrel lug instead of under it. The result is that the bore axis sits lower in the hand and this helps tame muzzle flip.
With the limited amount of space under the P380 barrel, Kahr engineers had to devise a dual spring recoil system to give the gun the needed spring mass to cycle correctly. Two springs, one inside the other and wound in opposite directions, surround the steel recoil spring guide. This provides the gun with the needed spring resistance yet the slide can still be easily cycled by hand.
What makes the Kahr P380 so concealable is its extreme flatness. It's only .75 inches thick and weighs just a hair over 13 ounces loaded with 7 rounds of 70-grain ammo. During the last month or so I have gotten in the habit of dropping the P380 in my Eotac shirt pocket. If you're not familiar with Eotac they make a clothing line designed to aid armed professionals in concealing their weapons.
The style 408 shirt features zippered hidden pockets under the shirt's breast pockets, and I found it to be just right for the P308. While running errands one day I ran into a cop friend and chatted with him for several minutes in a store parking lot. When he asked if I had anything new to write about I unzipped the hidden pocket and carefully handed him the P380. "Holy smokes," he said, "I had no idea that you had that in there. This would make a great hideout gun."
DeSantis sent me a sample of its InnerPiece inside the waistband holster for use with the little Kahr. It's a neat design with adjustable retention and a rear stabilizing wing to keep the gun positioned. It has dual snap fasteners for easy on and off convenience and the holster mouth is reinforced to make re-holstering easy. With the gun's extreme light weight and slimness it is effortless to carry in this rig.
Easy to Shoot
I wanted to put some rounds through the gun before I sat down to test its accuracy. My concern was that the gun's weight would make it uncontrollable or at least uncomfortable to shoot. I was also concerned that its petite dimensions would cause me to compromise my shooting grip to fire it effectively. What I found was that the P380 is an incredibly easy gun to shoot.
Recoil and muzzle flip are minimal for reasons already noted. One thing I did need to alter was my thumb position, however. The Kahr P380 has an external slide lock which is activated by the magazine follower to lock open on the last shot. I fired several magazines of ammo through the pistol and noticed that it was not locking open on the last shot. I tried various other ammunitions and it was still not working as it should. Then I realized that my thumb was resting on the rear of the slide stop and that slight pressure was enough to keep the slide lock from working as designed. By switching my grip to have my thumb ride alongside instead of on top of the slide lock the problem was solved. It was operator error not mechanical failure.
My test sample's trigger broke at a crisp five pounds without any stacking. The P380 possesses the same double action only trigger that is used on the rest of the Kahr semi-auto pistols and its smoothness made it easy to keep my sights aligned as I squeezed off the shots. I loaded the magazine with Winchester's 90-grain FMJ bullets fired the P380 as quickly as I could at my MGM steel target set up at about 10 yards. It seemed like I got faster with every magazine I put through the pistol. I was really starting to like this gun.
For the accuracy testing I set my targets out at 15 yards and used a Millett BenchMaster for support. One of the few criticisms that I have of the new Kahr pistol is the height of the front sight. It's just too short and made shooting groups painful. As it was the pistol already shot between 2 to 2.5 inches low at 15 yards. Replacing the front sight with a taller one would cause the pistol to shoot even lower. While I felt as though the stubby front sight hampered my ability to shoot tiny groups with the pistol it is consistent for the gun's intended deep concealment use. Though it was difficult for my eyes to see the front sight I think that you'll agree that the groups are pretty respectable for a .380 with a 2.5-inch barrel.
Ammo selection for a minor caliber subcompact is extremely important and Dakota Arms (www.dakotaammo.net) was kind enough to send me a good selection of high-performance cartridges. I received frangible Glaser Blue Safety Slugs, Cor-Bon's 90-grain JHP's, Deep Penetrating 100-percent copper DPX hollow points and Pow'RBall loads. All of these loads fed and cycled well and produced excellent accuracy. Any number of factors will dictate which load is right for you.
I also got a small sampling of Enhanced Penetration Rounds (EPR) from Extreme Shock Ammunition. Quoting their catalog, "EPR was engineered for applications where greater penetration is a must. The EPR has greater terminal success through glass and wood. This round has the ability to penetrate heavy skin and dense bone and then fragment once inside the softer tissue of the target."
As with the other high-performance ammos I tried, the P380 worked flawlessly with these rounds. Recoil was noticeably sharper but the upside of this equation is that it produced 22 percent more energy than the next closest ammunition, the Glaser Safety slugs.
Breaking It Down
Disassembly of the P380 for cleaning and routine maintenance is easy and requires no special tools. Simply line up the witness marks on the left hand side of the slide and frame and push out the slide stop. Pull the slide forward, off the frame while pulling the trigger. Once the slide is off the frame, compress the recoil springs and remove the guide rod. The barrel can then be dropped out of the slide. Particular attention must be made during reassembly of the spring system and positioning of the slide stop. Kahr has a very helpful video on its Website, www.kahr.com, that will keep you from reassembling the pistol incorrectly.
For those who need a highly concealable gun for undercover work or for use as a backup weapon, the new Kahr P380 may offer a solution. I found the gun to be extremely reliable, accurate, easy to control, and comfortable to shoot. Its light weight and small size made it possible to conceal easily regardless of what apparel I was wearing.
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.