Review: Kahr CM40
April 06, 2012
The CM series from Kahr is the latest in a long line of improved and evolving designs from this company. The newest member of the clan, the Kahr CM40, is at first glance no bigger than the CM9, which made its debut last year. But when compared side by side the CM40 shows more beef: it is both thicker (.94 inch versus .90 inch) and a hair longer (5.47 inches versus 5.42 inches) than the CM9.
That said, for its .40 S&W chambering it is a tiny gun. It has a three-inch barrel and weighs just 15.8 ounces, not quite two ounces more than the CM9. Those extra two ounces are all in the slide, which is machined out of a solid hunk of 416 stainless steel.
The pistol is just four inches tall, the same height as the CM9. How do you make a .40 S&W the same height as a 9mm? You sacrifice capacity—the CM40 holds only five rounds in the magazine compared to the CM9's six. The top of the slide sits slightly higher off my hand than the CM9 due to the increased bore diameter.
It is a DAO with no double-strike capability. I've found Kahr trigger pulls to consistently be the best in the pocket gun market, and the CM40 didn't disappoint. Trigger pull was a consistent 6.25 lbs and relatively short for a DAO.
The only complaint I had with the trigger was the reset. To fire another shot, the trigger had to be released almost back to the starting point. If you're used to riding the trigger this might take some getting used to, and lightning-fast double-taps with this kind of trigger (all other factors aside) aren't really possible.
The stainless steel slide has a matte finish and is topped with excellent sights for a pistol this size: a white dot front with a white bar in the rear.
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The Kahr's magazines are stainless steel and feature Wolff springs. They are made in the USA, plasma welded together and have a black polymer follower. The magazine catch in the frame is metal, so it won't get damaged by the metal magazine.
Externally, the Kahr CM40 is identical to the company's PM40, but it is more than $200 cheaper with a suggested retail of just $517, which is even less expensive than the initial price of the CM9 ($565).
The difference between Kahr's two .40 offerings? The CM line takes the value-priced features from Kahr's CW series and incorporates them into a smaller package. The PM40 has polygonal rifling in the barrel, whereas the CM40 has traditional land-and-groove rifling. The CM's slide has fewer cosmetic machining operations done to it and does not feature rollmarked markings but instead simple engraving on the slide. The CM's slide stop is a metal-injection-molded part as opposed to machined steel and is the only thing that mars the smooth lines of the pistol.
The CM has a polymer front sight and a drift-adjustable steel rear sight, as opposed to the PM's all-steel sights. While most end users will hardly notice the differences between the CM40 and the PM40 (apart from having to buy a spare mag), I have concerns about the longevity of a polymer front sight in a gun designed to live in a pocket or purse, banging against other items on a regular basis.
The slide, which features functional flat-bottomed slide serrations, locks back on an empty magazine. The magazine well is slightly beveled to facilitate reloading.
Another way Kahr reduced the cost of the CM series is shipping the guns with only one magazine (the PMs come with two).
As expected, the CM40 has a very strong recoil spring that fits around a full-length recoil spring guide rod. The Kahr was so tight out of the box that when the slide was locked back and the magazine removed, pulling back on the slide wasn't enough to let the slide stop drop down out of the way. Most Kahrs are this tight when new and just need to be shot a little to loosen up.
The Kahr CM40 is designed for self-defense and has a only three-inch barrel, so I tested it for accuracy at 15 yards. This is probably pushing the distance at which it would be used, even though the sights are good enough to shoot it much farther than that.
The trigger is wide and smooth, and with a relatively light trigger pull it wasn't hard to shoot up to the little pistol's full potential. Let's be clear, though—this shouldn't be anybody's first gun. A small light .40 isn't the gun you practice with to get good; this is the gun you carry after you've practiced and learned the basics. A small, light handgun chambered in .40 S&W will save your life and is easier to hit with than a J-frame, but it just isn't much fun to shoot.
The little Kahr was snappy off the sandbags, and with some ammo I got a nice fireball. Shooting offhand the Kahr barked and shoved at me and hit a little low and left but was completely reliable with every type of ammo I tried. Occasionally the slide wouldn't lock back on an empty magazine, but I think this was because my thumb was hitting the slide stop during recoil.
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Even for its size and chambering, I never had any worries the Kahr would fly out of my hand while I was shooting. This is because of the texturing on the front and rear of the polymer frame. It is not checkering, more like horizontal rows of interlocking squares, and even though it doesn't look like much of anything the texturing does a good job of keeping the pistol in place in your hand.
If you do buy a CM40, however, I highly, definitely recommend loading it with .40 S&W ammunition specifically produced for the concealed-carry market, such as the Hornady FPD and Federal Guard Dog, which aren't loaded to blistering velocities and are designed to expand at relatively slower velocities. Also, they have much more rounded profiles so they feed reliably. Loaded with this type of ammo the CM40 still isn't a pussycat, but it's manageable.
While it is small enough to fit in a pocket, fully loaded the CM40 starts to take on some real weight. 15.8 ounces for the pistol, 1.9 ounces for the magazine, plus six rounds of .40 S&W adds up to something more than 20 ounces. While that wouldn't feel like much of anything in a belt holster or a jacket pocket, that's a lot of weight to stick into a pants pocket. I'd recommend an inside-the-pocket holster if you're going to go that route.
The CM40 is so small that even getting two fingers onto the grip might be difficult for people with meaty paws, but that's the price you pay for a pistol not much bigger than a deck of cards. I wish the magazines didn't have flush floorplates but rather ones with finger extensions. Actually, if I'm going to start a wish list, I'd want two magazines with flush base plates and two spare finger extension base plates.
All of those extras, however, cost money, and floorplate extensions might make the Kahr too big for most pockets. The charm of the CM40 isn't just that it is a reliable auto chambered in a man-stopping cartridge and small enough to fit in a pocket, it is that it is affordable.
- Action: polymer-framed DAO semiautomatic
- Caliber: .40 S&W
- Capacity: 5+1
- Barrel: 3 in.
- Overall Length/Height/Width: 5.47/4.0/0.94 in.
- Frame: black polymer
- Slide: stainless steel
- Sights: white dot plastic front, steel rear with white post
- Trigger: DAO, 5.5 lb. pull (as tested)
- Weight: 15.8 oz
- Price: $517
- Manufacturer: Kahr Arms
- Smallest avg. group: 155 gr. Hornady TAP—1.7 in.
- Largest avg. group: 130 gr. Magtech—2.1 in.
- Avg. of all ammo tested (4 types)—1.9 in.
- Accuracy results are the averages of four five-shot groups at 15 yards from a sandbag rest.