Introduced in 1995, and originally conceived as an off-duty gun for peace officers, many of the features of the Kahr K9 reflect the design envelope for a compact but effective handgun. Designed for easy carry, the pistol is accurate at longish personal-defense range. The K9 is a substantial handgun with a good heft. While there are lighter handguns for concealed carry use in 9mm caliber, few are as comfortable to fire as the Kahr 9. With proper concealment gunleather, the K9 conceals and carries as well as lighter handguns.
The K9 is forged and machined, not shot from a mold. (There are modern polymer frame Kahr pistols, however, the K9 is the original steel version.) The K9 is an ideal concealed carry pistol that American gun owners have embraced. It is popular with experienced peace officers; however, the civilian market has proven much larger.
The pistol is an interesting confluence of design.
- The K9 uses the Browning locked breech design with the modern, angled camming surfaces and other improvements.
- The pistol is striker fired.
- The double-action only (DAO) trigger both cocks and releases the striker.
- There is no manual safety.
- The slide resets the trigger action and there is no restrike capability.
- The trigger is smooth, controllable, and feels lighter than the 5 3/4 pounds measured on the RCBS registering trigger pull gauge.
Smoothness is the first impression when handling the K9 and the second is its compact size and width. The pistol is considerably narrower than the Glock, at only .9-inch across the slide. The feed ramp shows attention to detail. In order to maintain the compact size, the feed ramp angles to one side in order to allow the most compact space to contain the trigger action. The pistol is as snag free as it is hammerless and the slide lock and magazine release are low profile. The sights are excellent bar dot types, with the white outline bar at the rear and a white dot in the front sight.
The grips are pebbled rubber grips, the face of the wide trigger is smooth and the beveled slide at the front makes for easy insertion into a holster. It is possible to bump the rear sight to one side or the other for windage adjustment. The pistol easily field strips simply by unloading the pistol, removing the magazine and bumping the slide stop out to the left.
The Kahr K9 is supplied with two, seven-round magazines. It should be noted that while the theoretical capacity is 7+1, with a round in the chamber and a seven-round magazine, the practical capacity is seven. The pistol should be loaded by locking the slide to the rear, inserting a loaded magazine, and dropping the slide. It is a quirk of the design that by racking the slide to load the magazine you sometimes set the pistol up for a light firing pin strike or a misfeed.
Load seven and you have seven for certain. Justin Moon, the designer, holds several patents related to the pistol. The compactness of the design while maintaining accuracy and reliability cannot be overstated. The innovative design features include a drawbar that lies rather flat allowing a narrower frame. This is partially made possible by the angled feed ramp.
When deploying the Kahr, a few cautions are in order.
- The pistols are wonderfully reliable, but it pays to change the recoil spring every 2,500 rounds or so. The recoil spring takes a lot of pressure in such a compact short slide pistol with high intensity loads and once it has lost an inch of free length it should be replaced with a premium W C Wolff spring.
- The striker channel should be kept clean and the striker spring changed every few thousand rounds. The Kahr likes lubrication, which isn’t always true of polymer frame pistols such as the Glock. It isn’t likely to choke and my examples have proven very reliable, but it is wise to clean and lubricate a steel frame gun more often than the low maintenance polymer frame pistols. Most of the Kahr pistols are stainless steel and the pistol illustrated is a blackened stainless steel handgun with a special finish.
Ammunition selection is also important. For practice I use what is affordable and works well. This means remanufactured ammunition much of the time. Black Hills remanufactured is offered in the Blue Box line. This is the same ammunition as the factory new red box load except that there is used brass. The brass is cleaned and inspected before loading and always gives good service. This isn’t “Uncle Sid’s by gosh by the seat of the pants” handloads. They are put up on the same modern machinery as new manufactured loads; they simply represent a great savings by using recycled brass. These loads help me keep the edge in practice sessions. You do not need a hollow point for range use and practice and lead is the least expensive loading.
For personal defense a good, jacketed, hollow-point bullet offering a balance of expansion and penetration is critical. The K9 is controllable with +P loads but you do not have to run +P loads if the recoil is excessive. I have fired and tested most of the current crop of defense-oriented 9mm Luger loadings. The 9mm is enough, but just enough, and demands a well-designed expanding bullet for personal defense.
The cartridge should be reliable above all else and demonstrate a good clean powder burn. Among the top loads in this caliber is the Black Hills 115-grain JHP +P. This loading demonstrates a good balance of expansion and penetration. I like the 115-grain weight in this caliber but also have the greatest respect for the Black Hills 124-grain +P loading. In the short barrel K9, the lighter weight bullet with its higher velocity remains my choice, but the 124-grain +P has much to recommend it.
Possibly the most popular all around 115-grain 9mm among my circle of friends is the Black Hills Ammunition 115-grain EXP. Extra Power is the proper name and this hollow-point load is faster than most but not quite in +P pressure territory. However, it is a good trick and a fine loading.
When firing the K9, you must understand the trigger action. To use the double-action only trigger well, a smooth, straight-to-the-rear trigger press is required.
- Press the trigger and then release, allowing the trigger to reset.
- Allow about the same amount of time for trigger press and trigger reset.
- Reacquire the sights in the interval between shots.
The K9 is a surprisingly accurate handgun for its size, with a high degree of intrinsic accuracy. It is up to you, as the shooter, to practice and get the most from the pistol’s potential. In the end the Kahr 9 is a first-class pistol well worth its price.
Average of two, five-shot groups from a barricade firing position at 15 yards. Groups measured in inches.
|Load||Average Group Size|
|Black Hills 115 gr. FMJ Remanufactured||3.0 inches|
|Black Hills 115 gr. JHP +P||2.0 inches|
|Wolf 124 gr. FMJ||2.65 inches|
|122 gr. Oregon Trail RNL –WW 231 powder/870 fps (handload)||3.25 inches|
Specifications and Features
- Caliber: 9mm
- Capacity: 7+1
- Operation: Trigger cocking DAO; lock breech; “Browning – type” recoil lug; passive striker block; no magazine disconnect
- Barrel: 3.465″, polygonal rifling; 1 – 10 right-hand twist
- Length O/A: 6.0″
- Height: 4.5″
- Slide Width: .90″
- Weight: Pistol 23.1 ounces, Magazine 1.9 ounces
- Grips: Wraparound, textured soft polymer
- Sights: Drift adjustable, white bar-dot combat sights
- Finish: Matte blackened stainless steel
- Magazines: Two 7 rd, Stainless