Kahr Arms CW9

By Walt Rauch - Last updated: Thursday, April 12, 2012 - Save & Share - 6 Comments

Handgun review photo: Left-side thumbnail of Kahr Arms CW9.

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Summary: Walt Rauch’s review of and rating for the Kahr Arms CW9 pistol, including a range report, photos, pricing, specs, user ratings and user comments. (Click here to see all of Rauch’s handgun reviews.)

Editor’s Review

Handgun review photo: Left-side thumbnail of Kahr Arms CW9.
Historically, the Kahr Arms line of semiautos has been, to put it bluntly, a bit pricey. The folks at Kahr took note of this when they developed the CW9, a compact semiauto chambered in 9mm and built on a polymer frame. The CW9 is priced $254 less than its parent, the P9. The P9 carries an MSRP of $739 with two magazines, versus the CW9 at a suggested retail of $485 with one magazine (and it sells for less at most firearms dealers).

When I saw the CW9 at a trade show, my first question to Kahr Arms Vice President Frank Harris was, what was sacrificed to get this lower price? Harris took me on a detailed tour of the CW9, but it wasn’t until I had a CW9 and a P9 side by side at home that I could truly appreciate what’s been done.

The Detail
Without getting too far into how CNC cuts were or were not changed and the advantages of increased bearing surfaces for durability, suffice to say the savings came from the Kahr Arms engineers figuring out how to spend less machine time on each gun. In this modern world of CAD-CAM and CNC, and good wages for those who work at this stuff, eliminating any amount of time results in significant cost cutting.

In construction and operation, the CW9 mirrors the P9. The slide is stainless steel with a matte-stainless finish, and it’s fed from an all-steel seven-round magazine with a removable finger-rest base plate. There are some differences between parent and offspring, done to cut manufacturing costs. The CW9 has not been cheapened, though. The savings were found by a thoughtful examination of what Kahr could do to lessen cost without losing quality.

The CW9 lacks the rounded edges found on my sample PM9, substituting angled but flat machine cuts to accomplish the same no-snag surfaces. For example, the muzzle features a series of inward sloping cuts to allow easy reholstering, and, rather than rounding the slide, Kahr gives the top edge an angle-flat machine cut. Also, the curved, artistic line on both sides of the slide are gone—all good examples of how small changes can affect cost but not function. In addition, the barrel is now conventionally rifled, not polygonally.

The CW9 (right) has a pinned sight and angles on the slide, not a dovetailed sight and curves like the P9 (left).

The low-profile, white bar-dot combat sights have been changed from metal to polymer and the front sight pinned in, not dovetailed to the slide. The rear sight remains dovetailed into the slide and is windage adjustable. It’s well worth noting that, while the front sight is pinned in, Kahr uses two staking pins doubly ensure the sight stays put. The CW9 also uses the more flattened slide stop, which is also used on the subcompact Kahr. For me, this is a big plus because the wider slide stop always catches on something when I carry it.

The CW9 of course offers shooters the standard features found across the entire Kahr lineup. Kahr sights are fixed but windage adjustable, with Tritium night sights as an option. All magazines are steel, with witness holes in their sides.

The Kahr firing system is similar to that of the Glock; i.e., it’s striker fired, with the double-action trigger drawing back the striker. (The Glock employs a Safe Action trigger, which provides a shorter overall movement.)

There is no external safety, but the Kahr (like the Glock system) has an internal firing pin safety. The magazine release is located at the bottom-rear of the ample and curved trigger guard that protects the curved, smooth-faced trigger. The trigger pull runs from 7–9 lbs.

Range Report
After picking up the CW9 from King Shooters Supply in King of Prussia, Pa., I did some range work at my club, the Lower Providence Rod and Gun Club in Oaks, Pa. My first drill: get a few rounds downrange to re-acquaint myself with the Kahr double-action-only (DAO) trigger.

Then I began accuracy and reactive firing work. Now, while the Kahr is more than able to cluster hits next to each other at 50 feet from a seated rest, most users won’t take the time to carefully manipulate the DAO trigger to do so. The difficulty in doing this “trick” is in controlling trigger overtravel, because the trigger must both retract and release its striker, and therefore it must have some rearward movement afterwards.

I had a so-so day. I’d manage three nice hits, and then two would slip out of the group. Regardless, the results generally came in under 3″.

The CW9 liked:

It also shot well with:

Kahr Arms holds patents on its offset feeding and trigger system.

The CW9 did not like any of the brands of so-called green or frangible ammunition; this is curious because it’s run well in other 9mm handguns.

I had three other shooters on the gun, and combined we suffered only two malfunctions. In both instances, the round failed to chamber: one when loading from slide lock, and the other when loading with the slide forward. Both times, the subject cartridge was successfully re-chambered in the same manner.

Because these occurred after shooting more than 100 rounds, the cause might well have simply been a dirty chamber. (When I cleaned the gun afterward, it was filthy.)

Also worth noting: I brought along a P9 and a PK9 (subcompact) in addition to the CW9, and both worked well with all of the above ammunition, with no malfunctions.

Final Thoughts
With the CW9, Kahr Arms has well addressed the most often voiced complaint about its pistols—they cost too much. No one said you didn’t get value for your money, just that they didn’t want to spend that much. With the CW9s modifications, now they don’t have to!

Walt Rauch received a BS degree from Carnegie Tech and completed service as a Special Agent in U.S. Army Intelligence. Rauch was a U.S. Secret Service Special Agent and a Philadelphia, Pa., Warrant Unit Investigator. He now operates a consulting company for defense-weapon and tactical training. Rauch & Company services include expert witness testimony on firearms use and tactics.

Rauch is also a writer and lecturer in the firearms field. He’s published in national and international publications including InterMedia’s Handguns, several Harris Publications specialty magazines, Police and Security News and Cibles (France). He is the author of a book on self-defense, Real-World Survival! What Has Worked For Me, as well as Practically Speaking, a comprehensive guide to IDPA defensive pistol shooting.

The Specs

Caliber Capacity OAL BBL Width Height Weight
9mm 7+1 5.9″ 3.5″ .9″ 4.5″ 15.8 oz. unloaded

MSRP: $485

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Posted in $251-$500, $501-$750, 9mm, Compact, Kahr Arms, Semiauto • Tags: Top Of Page

6 Responses to “Kahr Arms CW9”

Comment from JDub229r
Time April 16, 2011 at 9:26 am

I had hoped that purchasing a CW9 would be the end all to my CCW search. Not so much; Negatives: poor accuracy, ammo finiky, guide rod issues. Positives: love the size, flatness, weight, trigger pull, not bad recoil with standard pressure ammo. Moved on the a KelTec PF9 – I’d give it a 6 start rating. I may try the new LC9 once the prices settle down.

Comment from Gary
Time May 24, 2012 at 2:36 pm

I have fired a box of shells through it and only one FTF issue where I was able to eject the shell and then fire the same bullet later without problems. The gun is very accurate and fun to shoot! Tried other nines that I didn’t like and I like the Kahr better than my CZ 75B 40 cal in satin nickel.

Comment from Doug
Time January 5, 2013 at 12:11 am

I’ve had my CW9 for several months now as my off-duty weapon. It carries well in a IWB holster. It’s had over 300 rounds through it, and even through the break-in period it functioned flawlessly. It is pleasant to shoot, with a fine trigger pull and managable recoil, and it is quite accurate. The CW-9 is a pistol I can recommend without reservation.

Comment from Jed Henson
Time April 28, 2014 at 10:05 am

Hi everybody. A reader emailed me a question about the CW9, and I’ve posted it below in case someone knows the answer:

“Will a clipdraw for a glock fit it, and if so, how would I take plate off back of charging handle?”

Comment from carlys peters
Time April 28, 2014 at 7:21 pm

Its very easy to hide and it handles nice

Comment from Steve
Time July 12, 2014 at 7:59 pm

This is an excellent CCW piece. I ran 250 rounds of various 115gr FMJ for break-in without a single malfunction. Paid $339 at a LGS and got an extra free magazine from Kahr during a special promotion. Very accurate, mild recoil and excellent quality in an AMERICAN made firearm.

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