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Slender, single-stack 9mm semiautos are redefining compact concealed-carry handguns. They’re not much bigger than the pint-sized .22LR, .25 ACP and .32 ACP autos and are about the same size as many .380 pistols. Yet, they provide significantly more power. When compared to J-frame-sized revolvers, their power levels, size and weight are roughly equal, but the eight to nine rounds they carry are far more comforting than the five or six offered by the revolver. And if things get really ugly, the autos can be reloaded a lot faster. 

Kahr has been one of the leaders in this genre, and the 2017 introduction of its new S series line continues that tradition while offering some useful enhancements.

The Guns

The first guns in the new S series are the S9093 ($477) and the ST9093 ($456).

The S9093 features a 3.6-inch, fully ramped barrel and ships with two seven-round magazines. It has the same basic dimensions as Kahr’s existing CW9. The ST9093 is a slightly larger version, with a 4-inch barrel and a grip frame lengthened to take an eight-round magazine, two of which are included.

The sights on both Kahrs were bold and bright. They allowed the author to use his normal street glasses throughout the tests – just as in the “real world.”

Both pistols are striker fired and operate with Kahr’s trigger-cocking DOA “Safe-Cam” Action that produces a lengthy DAO trigger pull similar to a revolver. There is no manual safety; and, given the guns’ intended “close and quick” role, it is a very effective trigger design.

The guns fire from a locked breech (necessary to handle 9mm pressure levels) with a Browning-type recoil lug and a passive striker block with no magazine disconnect. The frame is black polymer with a matte stainless steel slide. The sights are fixed in Kahr’s white three-dot pattern, with the rear being drift adjustable for windage corrections.

Both Kahrs fit smoothly into a Don Hume belt clip holster intended for am M&P compact and made it easy to conceal the gun under any loose-fitting shirt.

None of this is a departure from Kahr’s existing 9mm handguns. However, what sets the S series apart is the addition of a subtle Picatinny rail on the dust cover that allows shooters to add the increasingly popular light or laser. Additionally, forward cocking serrations on the slide make chamber-checking a bit easier.

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Familiarization

The first step was a field strip to assure proper lubrication, followed by some dry fire to assist in smoothing the triggers and get used to the guns. When that was done, I looked at the holsters I had on hand. Because these guns are close-range personal defense tools, I wanted to run them from some leather. I didn’t have to look very far.

“Even using a grip intended to induce a limp wrist malfunction, the combination of stiff magazine springs and secure gripping surface didn’t let that happen.”

The Bianchi Model 7 Shadow OWB pancake holster and the Don Hume H715 IWB clip holster that handle my M&P 9mm Compact EDC fit both guns very well. I remember some “Internet commando” opining that if your new gun fits one of your existing holsters, something is seriously wrong and you need a new holster for the new gun. I disagree. There’s more commonality in compact handgun holsters than many realize.

The controls on the S series guns are simple: a left-side magazine release and a slide release. There is no magazine safety.

When running dry-fire draws from both holsters I was immediately impressed with the pointing characteristics of the S series guns. For me, as for most shooters, there are guns whose “grip angle” doesn’t match my “hand angle.” Some guns come quickly from the holster to the target with the front sight pointing high, which I then have to lower into the rear sight notch. Others point low, which requires that I raise the front sight. My M&P Compact points dead on. The Kahr’s did the same: Present the gun, and the sights are there.

The Trigger

Very few guns come from the factories with what a competitive shooter would describe as a “match-ready” trigger. Tuning those triggers keeps a lot of gunsmiths in business. These Kahr handguns are no exception. From the box, their long DOA pulls were decidedly rough—I might even say a bit crunchy.

But they hardly need a trip to the gunsmith. Shooters can easily smooth them up themselves, and with minimal effort.

The Kahr triggers were smoothly rounded, making rapid trigger manipulation easy and comfortable.

The “1,000-round trigger job” is a term used by some shooters that describes the natural smoothing of the trigger that results from normal use. I accelerated the process by field-stripping both guns and applying a generous amount of light gun oil to the trigger assembly. This lubricates part-on-part movement and helps carry shavings away.

I did a couple of hundred dry-fire trigger pulls. Then, I field-stripped it again, cleaned it up with brake cleaner, let that dry, added a lighter coat of gun oil and headed to the range.

After a box or two of ammo through each gun, the triggers had smoothed up considerably. It didn’t take anywhere near the proverbial “1,000 rounds.” The trigger on the S9093 finished at a reasonably smooth 7 pounds, 8 ounces, while the ST9093 came in at 7 pounds, 1 ounce on my digital trigger pull gauge.

The weak and strong hand tests I did at 10 yards convinced me that the time spent smoothing those triggers was well spent.

Prepping for the Range

Once that familiarization period was over, I assembled the test loads. These aren’t match guns, so I selected the loads I would carry on the “mean streets.” They consisted of Speer’s Lawman 124-grain Gold Dot JHP+P; SIG Sauer’s 124-grain Elite JHP; Winchester’s PDX1 124-grain +P; and Federal’s new Micro HST 150-grain load. And, because everyone needs lower-cost practice ammo, I also included Aguila’s 124-grain FMJ.

It was then time to load the mags to prep for the range. I quickly discovered that loading the magazines—for either gun—is not simple … or fun.

The magazine springs are extremely stiff. When I went to load them for the first time, I used the normal “magazine in the left hand, and thumb the rounds in with the right thumb” procedure I use on all my other semiautos. I managed to get three or four rounds in each magazine.

“When running dry-fire draws from both holsters, I was immediately impressed with the pointing characteristics of the S series guns… Present the gun, and the sights are there.”

Then, my thumb said, “¡No más!” I couldn’t generate enough pressure to get in additional rounds. So, I put the magazine base plate on a hard bench to provide a more-solid base and started jamming rounds in.

I then discovered that in addition to stiff springs, the magazines also have very sharp feed lips. I opened a ¼-inch gash on my thumb while trying to force the remaining rounds into the mags.

The eight-round magazines from the ST9093 fit the smaller Kahr perfectly. Not only did it add an extra round, it also provided a better grip.

Once I got the bleeding stopped, the thumb bandaged and the bloodied magazine cleaned up, I adopted a different loading strategy: I started with the magazine base plate set on a solid bench. I wore a light leather on my right hand to protect against the sharp feed lips. Once the final round went in, I gave it a light tap with the heel of my gloved hand to seat it firmly. That procedure worked well, and each magazine held the advertised number of rounds.

At the Range

My initial live-firing tests with a freestyle hold at 10 yards showed me that the sights, although not right on the money, were close. And while the windage could easily be adjusted by drifting the rear sight, I chose not to, because these were test guns.

As for the sights, the white, three-dot sights are big, bold and quick to find. And they are cut generously enough to allow a precision sight picture on the target. One of the critical things a shooter must do if they are forced to draw their handgun in a personal defense situation is to quickly find the sights and get on target. That’s not always easy, especially for older shooters. Once you hit 40, presbyopia causes diminished ability of the eyes to focus on near objects.

The ST9093 shot a bit high from a 15-yard bench with the potent Speer Gold Dot +P, but it was still “minute of attacker.”

For this reason, my two EDC guns are equipped with big, bright aftermarket sights (from Advantage Tactical) that allow me to find them quickly. However, that wasn’t needed with the Kahr S series guns. I had no trouble acquiring the Kahr factory sights. I have been doing gun tests for various publications for a couple of decades, and the Kahr sights are, without a doubt, the best close-range personal defense sights I have ever seen on a factory gun.

“… the Kahr sights are, without a doubt, the best close-range personal defense sights I have ever seen on a factory gun.”

I also developed an appreciation for the checkering pattern on the polymer grips. The side panels have subtle stippling, and the front and rear frames feature an aggressive raised, checkered pattern. They created a very secure and positive gripping surface. When running the brisk-recoiling Speer Gold Dot +P load at more than 1,200 fps with weak and strong hand, the gun did not shift in my hand. The grip was locked in—even during the 95-degree heat (and equal humidity) I was faced with during August gun tests in Florida.

The seven-round magazines on the S9093 provided an adequate grip for my average-sized hands … but it was a tight fit. I could easily see how someone with larger hands would wind up with a pinky finger under the magazine base plate. I tried the eight-round ST9093 magazines in the S9093, and they worked perfectly. The added length protruding from the bottom of the grip made a very comfortable pinky rest, even for my hands. Those magazines add little to the size of the S9093, but they create a significantly improved grip for those with larger hands, along with an extra round on tap. They are available as accessories from Kahr. Were I to carry the S9093, I would get some ST9093 mags.

“I also developed an appreciation for the checkering pattern on the polymer grips … They created a very secure and positive gripping surface.”

My next tests involved more of a real-world situation. A solid, two-hand hold at 10 yards is nice, but many personal protection events occur closer and faster, and sometimes, two hands are not available. That is what the Kahr is designed for, and the gun has to be reliable when grabbed quickly with either hand and fired equally quickly.

For this test, I put up a 12-inch-square Caldwell Big Burst target at 10 yards and taped a 6.5×4.5-inch piece of white paper in the center. All four magazines were fully loaded with Aguila 124-grain FMJ. I shoved eight rounds into the 4-inch ST9093 and ran it quickly with my strong hand. The second magazine was run with my weak hand. The same thing was done with the 3.6-inch S9093.

I wasn’t trying for tight, precise groups. I ran those rounds with both weak and strong hands from both guns as quickly as I could to get the sights back somewhere onto the target. Thirty rounds went downrange. Even though I had declined to adjust the sights, the group was adequately centered. I could have covered the 30 rounds with a 10-inch dinner plate. Remove three outer fliers, and a 9-inch plate would do it. Seventeen of the 30 rounds wound up in the 6.5×4.5-inch center. That’s not exactly MOA (that is, minute of angle), but it is another kind of MOA: minute of attacker.

That was satisfying. But more impressive was that although I deliberately used a light grip with my weak hand for both guns, I could not induce a malfunction. Every round that went into the magazine came out as a fired case and landed 4 to 6 feet right and 45 degrees rear. Even using a grip intended to induce a limp wrist malfunction, the combination of stiff magazine springs and secure gripping surface didn’t let that happen. I was also unable to induce a trigger short stroke, no matter how fast I ran. The reset was quick and positive.

The S9093 is only marginally smaller than the ST9093. Both will conceal easily.

That is the level of reliability that’s not only critically important in a close range personal defense handgun; in this writer’s opinion, it is mandatory.

Final Thoughts

The Kahr S series guns aren’t going to wind up in the winner’s circle at an action pistol match, but the included accuracy chart (see sidebar on page XXX) will show they are more than adequate for their intended purpose. Most importantly, they functioned extremely reliably, with no malfunctions.

They do require a bit of smoothing out and some care in loading the magazines. Do that, however, and they become an easy-to-tote and highly reliable personal protection tool—and at a reasonable price.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.

 

PERFORMANCE RESULTS

S9093

ST9093

LOAD

Group Avg. (inches)/Velocity (fps)

Group Avg.      (inches)/Velocity (fps)

Speer Gold Dot 124-grain +P

3.53/1,218

3.42/1,253

Aguila 124-grain FMJ

3.78/1,016

3.37/1,042

SIG Sauer 124-grain Elite JHP

3.96/1,087

3.87/1,182

Winchester PDX1 124-grain +P

4.13/1,126

3.98/1,141

Federal Micro HST 150-grain 

3.86/834

3.72/882

Note: Groups were fired from a sandbagged bench rest at 15 yards; an average of three five-round groups were measured, center to center, in inches. Velocities were recorded on an Oehler 3-Screen chronograph, with the start screen set at 10 feet.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

S9093                       ST9093     

Caliber:                                  9mm Luger               9mm Luger

Capacity:                                7+1                           8+1

Barrel length:                         3.6 inches                  4.0 inches

Overall length:                       5.9 inches                  6.5 inches

Height:                                   4.5 inches                  5.08 inches

Empty weight:                       15.8 ounces               18.5 ounces

Slide width:                            .90 inch                     .90 inch

MSRP:                                     $477                         $456


Both Models

Operation: Trigger-cocking DOA, locked breech, Browning-type recoil lug, passive striker block, no magazine safety.

Rifling: Conventional; 1-10 RH twist

Sights: Three-dot; rear drift-adjustable for windage; pinned front blade

Frame: Polymer (black) with textured grip

Additional features: Accessory rail on dust cover; front and rear cocking serrations on matte-finished stainless steel slide

Controls: Non-ambidextrous, left-side magazine release button and slide release lever

Magazines: Two; stainless steel


CONTACT INFORMATION

Kahr Arms

 

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the December 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.