You Get What You Pay For…



…Except when you don’t.  And then there are the times when you get more than what you paid for.

I think this post is about the third of those possible outcomes.

Most gun people have heard of Kahr Arms.  They make metal & polymer framed single-stack pistols using a unique DAO action with a long trigger pull.  The founder of the company, Justin Moon (given name: Kook Jin Moon, so I think going with Justin was a good plan), is also the chief designer.  The various Kahr models have been tested by many industry publications and found to be well-made guns, though more expensive than some of their competition.  The Kahr guns do have a quirk, in that the owners manual clearly states that the gun is not going to be reliable until the owner puts 200 rounds through it.  But a break-in period is not uncommon for many products.

Kahr is doing something interesting.  They have taken 4 of their most popular models (the P45, P40, P9 and PM9) and found ways to offer simplified versions at lower prices.  About $200 lower (MSRP).  Let’s look at the two 9mm models, the P9 and PM9.

(more below)

The P9 is a full-size polymer-frame 9mm pistol with a polygon-rifled L. Walther barrel that comes with two 7-round magazines.  Kahr started offering the less-expensive CW9 with a cut-rifled barrel and a single magazine.

The PM9 is a tiny polymer-frame 9mm with a polygon-rifled L. Walther barrel that comes with a 6- and a 7-round magazine, and Kahr is now offering a similar CM9 model with a cut-rifled barrel and just the 6-round magazine.

Kahr Comparison

Kahr Comparison

What’s the difference?  According to Kahr’s brochure for the CM9:

Vive la Difference
Vive la Difference

They left out the fact that the sights on the cheaper models are plastic (instead of metal).  But that’s it.  And the consumer saves about $200 off the MSRP (most dealers sell products below MSRP).

I don’t think the plastic sights are a problem.  The stock sights on Glock are plastic, and there hasn’t been any pitchfork-waving mobs protesting them.

The simpler slide machining and engraving is a non-issue for me; people who like pretty guns might turn up their nose.

Magazines are $40 on the Kahr website, and most shooters buy more than what comes with the gun anyway.  So the inclusion of a single magazine seems like a minor drawback.

The MIM slide stop lever.  Hmmm.  They don’t say the slide stop pin is MIM, just the lever (which makes me wonder).  And a machined slide stop lever for the upscale version of either gun is $24.  So if someone has a severe allergy to MIM parts, there is a remedy.

The major difference is the barrel.  A Lothar Walther polygon-rifled barrel versus a cut-rifled barrel of unknown origin.  Cut rifling means no problems with lead bullets.  But, in theory, polygon rifling is more accurate with jacketed ammo.  Gun Tests magazine ran both of the cheapo guns through tests, and here are the results for the CM9 and PM9:

Accuracy Comparison

Accuracy Comparison

Considering the variance in testing distance (10 yards vs. 15 yards), there does not seem to be any huge accuracy advantage to the polygon-rifled barrel in the subcompact guns.  And they used one brand of identical ammo for both tests (Winchester BEB 115gr), so it’s probably not an ammo issue.  And, these are personal defense guns, not target guns.  I could accept the accuracy of either gun in a carry pistol.  Add in the huge savings and the difference in accuracy shrinks even more.

The P9 shot approximately 2.6″ groups with 3 different kinds of ammo at 25 yards.  The CW9 shot groups that were an inch larger at 15 yards.  In that case, the polygon rifling might have made a difference.  But the CW9 wasn’t unacceptable.

Gun Tests gave the CM9 an “A” rating, and the CW9 an “A-” rating.  In particular, they felt the CM9 was a much better value than the upscale version.

In the case of the CM9, it appears that you get all of the good points of the PM9 with very few practical compromises for a significant discount.

I have to admit, I am tempted…

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One Response to “You Get What You Pay For…”

  1. Miguel says:

    My wife bought (with my money) a CW9 fir daily carry. After much begging, she let me try it and I liked the little gun. It felt comfortable in my hand, the sights were visible even though my eyesight is not the best and I found it accurate enough for defensive purposes at 5 to 7 yards. I shot Wally World 115 gr white box and hopefully this weekend I may get the chance to shoot it again with some defensive rounds and my reloads.
    I am considering buying another one as back up gun and will probably do so after the missus decides between a Glock or and M&P and then her 1911.