Portable Packable Power: The Kahr S9 Compact 9mm

Always bring enough gun. That line writes well. It also embodies a great deal of well-reasoned tactical gravitas. If ever you should find yourself in the midst of a Real World balls-to-the-wall gunfight you don’t want to be the guy suffering a terminal case of pistol envy. However, I always thought that whoever first penned that idiom likely didn’t live in the American Deep South.

The Kahr S9 is a compact single stack DAO defensive pistol optimized for concealed carry.


It gets hot down here in the summer, Africa hot, and sometimes packing a proper pocket howitzer becomes a real chore when the uniform of the day is shorts and a T-shirt. One solution is to opt for a smaller heater. I’ve got a North American Arms .22 Short mini-revolver in my personal collection that’s not much bigger than my thumb. It’s cute as a button. It looks great hanging on the wall of the gunroom. However, I wouldn’t want to go to war with it. When it comes to combat handguns, size really does matter.

The answer to this quandary is to be found in the latest generation of single stack polymer-framed concealment guns now available in serious social calibers. Lots of folks make them. However, the Kahr S9 hits the sweet spot between concealability, nice tactical features, and a workingman price.


  • Type: Striker-fired; DAO
  • Cartridge: 9mm
  • Capacity: 7+1 rds.
  • Weight: 15.8 oz.
  • Barrel Length: 3.6 in.
  • Overall Length:  5.9 in.
  • Height: 4.5 in.
  • Width: .90 in. 
  • Sights: Drift adjustable white Two-dot rear sight; pinned in polymer front sight
  • MSRP: $477
  • Manufacturer: Kahr Arms

The Kahr S9 is a great addition to your daily loadout.

Getting Here

When I was a kid only cops and criminals carried guns. When I was but a pup I never might have imagined that so many regular folks would someday be packing heat for protection. Nowadays, however, concealed carry is technically the law of the land from sea to shining sea. It’s what all the cool kids are doing, and the gun industry has been more than happy to oblige.

This sound suppressed Kimber Warrior SOC 1911 is a superb full-sized service pistol. It is also as big as a hubcap and weighs as much as a Claymore mine. For daily carry duties, the Kahr S9 is a much more serviceable design.

As a result of the relative dearth of demand back in the old days, handguns used to be more intended for carrying in a glove box or nightstand than on your person. Full-figured autos and magnum wheelguns populated most typical American gun emporia. This deep into the Information Age, however, the firearms industry has begun offering slim compact polymer-framed autoloaders that pack serious social bullets into a package you can comfortably tote discreetly.

Kahr’s line of 123 different handguns runs the gamut from .380ACP to .45ACP in packages that range from subcompact pocket pistols to service automatics. There are scads of finishes for the fashion conscious. All their offerings exhibit quality workmanship and well-reasoned features.

Pertinent Particulars

The Kahr S9 strikes a splendid tactical balance. The thin single-stack architecture packs 7+1 of proper 9mm defensive chaos into a chassis that is slim, trim, and svelte. The slide is a mere 0.90 inches wide, and the gun is only 4.5 inches tall. The only external controls are the magazine catch and slide release, both of which are left side only and snag-resistant.

The S9 sports a weatherproof polymer frame and a comparably robust stainless steel slide. The grip is liberally festooned with pebbly grabby bits, while the slide has gripping serrations both front and rear. The dust cover includes an abbreviated length of Picatinny rail should weaponlights on your carry guns trip your trigger. Interestingly, the embedded metal data plate is oriented on the left aspect of the grip rather than in the customary spot on the dustcover.

The Kahr S9 is not really much bigger than a full-figured .380ACP handgun.

The rear sight includes a brace of white dots and is drift adjustable. The front sight is pinned in place. The test gun shot to point of aim out of the box. The action is the apparently perfect Browning-designed recoil-operated tilting lock used by 95 % of the combat handguns in the world. This timeless design offers a diminutive footprint along with reasonable recoil.

The Double Action Only (DAO) trigger leaves the striker unloaded at rest. However, once the striker has dropped the slide must be cycled to return the action to its active state. While this means no double strike capability, my lifetime round count is well into the zillions, and I’ve never had a primer failure with decent commercial ammo.

There is a passive striker block for safety. This means the gun won’t go off unless the trigger is pulled. The S9 wisely eschews a magazine disconnect safety. I have heard all the arguments for including these curious devices, but they always seemed like a liability to me.

The single stack seven-round magazine weighs a scant 1.9 ounces, and the gun comes with two. The magazines are formed from weather-resistant stainless steel just like the slide. The magazines of your carry guns are typically the most wantonly neglected piece of the defensive equation. Therefore the tougher these components can be the better. All up the new Kahr S9 weighs less than a pound empty.

Taking the Kahr S9 Out For a Spin

I have big monkey mitts, and my simian fingers wrap all the way around the grip and then some. My petite bride of thirty years has the dainty hands of an angel, and the S9 fits her perfectly. The grip is obviously designed to be as compact as possible around the magazine for easy concealment. Jacking the slide is heavy but no worse than is the case with any comparable Browning gun.

The S9 is just big enough to manage serious ammo while remaining adequately compact to hide underneath light clothing. My daily work uniform is surgical scrubs, little more than souped-up pajamas really, and the S9 rides comfortably and pleasantly throughout a long day of stamping out the disease. Once properly adjusted the S9 is indeed a joy to pack.

The S9 performs on the range as well as a much bigger gun. The grip is a wee bit small for my big hands, but this does render the weapon easy to conceal. The chassis still manages full power 9mm rounds nicely. Some small-framed autos can be punishing, but the S9 is quite comfortable on the range. The S9’s blocky slide is easy to grasp and quick to charge.

I will admit to being biased against DAO triggers. The first gun I carried for real was a GI-issue Beretta M9, and despite my very best efforts I never could quite shoot to the same point of aim in both Single Action and Double Action modes. This turned me off to Double Action handguns as a result. However, the DAO trigger on the Kahr S9 is a bit like Goldilocks’ porridge. The trigger is not too heavy and not too light. It runs just about right.

There is a short and predictable take-up at the beginning leading up to a fixed point where the trigger begins compressing the striker. This occurs about a quarter of the way into the pull sequence. From that point the trigger gets a bit heavier until it finally breaks at the very end of its long travel. None of the experience is unduly heavy, but it is very long. This is not the trigger you would want on your tuned precision rifle. It is, however, not atypical for a deep carry defensive gun. As there is no external safety it is this long predictable trigger pull that serves as a procedural safety.

The grip on the S9 is so small it feels about like a .380. As a result, just like any .380 pocket pistol, I can’t manage the trigger with the distal end of my finger like I might on a custom 1911. However, for a concealed carry gun this really is not a practical problem. When moving with a purpose you really don’t notice the long trigger. As you can see from the attached performance data, the S9 shoots plenty straight at reasonable defensive ranges.

Group Size is best four of five shots measured center to center fired from a simple rest at 13 meters. Velocity is the average of three rounds fired across a Caldwell Ballistic Chronograph oriented 10 feet from the muzzle.

The S9 comes with a spare magazine and runs quickly. Magazines drop free cleanly, and the slide release is discreet while remaining large enough for positive access. Carrying the spare mag provides 15 rounds on board comfortably even underneath shorts and a t-shirt.


I have some of the nicest full-sized handguns in my personal stable. These bodacious high-capacity hog legs pack a dozen or more large-caliber bullets onboard while remaining both comfortable and fun to run. They are also the size of a Mini Cooper hubcap and weigh as much as a Claymore mine. On a tactical thigh rig these heaters would be great company should I ever find myself humping the Hindu Kush in search of the Taliban.

Note the lack of muzzle climb, even in the midst of long shot strings. The Kahr S9 has a long and relatively thick DAO trigger, but it still shot plenty straight for defensive use.

However, I am a washed-up out-of-shape 51-year-old physician-cum-erstwhile gun writer who donated his knees to the U.S. Army during the course of his foolish youth. The only way I might ever find myself hunting the Taliban in Afghanistan is if every other American to include Cher, Madonna, and my mom was offered the job and subsequently declined. What I might genuinely need a gun for is rather those times when I take my bride out on a date or need to drop by the supermarket on the way home to pick up some milk. For applications of these sorts, the Kahr S9 is perfect.

Slim, trim, and svelte like a .380ACP yet packing enough fight-stopping horsepower to keep you formidable come what may, the S9 is a serious carry gun for those who are serious about carrying. The lightweight chassis is literally painless underneath modest clothing, yet it offers as many proper rounds on tap as a 1911. Inexpensive, well reasoned, and lethal, the S9 is the next generation in concealed carry guns.

For more information about Kahr Arms, click here.

To purchase a Kahr S9 on GunsAmerica, click here.

About the author: Will Dabbs was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, having been immersed in hunting and the outdoors since his earliest recollections. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Mississippi and is the product of a traditional American nuclear family. Where most normal American kids get drunk to celebrate their 21st birthday, Will bought his first two machineguns. Will served eight years as an Army Aviator and accumulated more than 1,100 flight hours piloting CH47D, UH1H, OH58A/C, and AH1S helicopters. He is scuba qualified, has parachuted out of perfectly good airplanes at 3 o’clock in the morning, and has summited Mt. McKinley, Alaska–the highest point in North America–six times (at the controls of a helicopter, which is the only way sensible folk climb mountains). For reasons that seemed sagacious at the time he ultimately left the Army as a Major to pursue medical school. Dr. Dabbs has for the last dozen years owned the Urgent Care Clinic of Oxford, Mississippi. He also serves as the plant physician for the sprawling Winchester ammunition plant in that same delightful little Southern town. Will is a founding partner of Advanced Tactical Ordnance LLC, a licensed 07/02 firearms manufacturer and has written for the gun press for a quarter century. He writes solely to support a shooting habit that is as insensate as it is insatiable. Will has been married to his high school sweetheart for more than thirty years and has taught his Young Married Sunday School class for more than a decade. He and his wife currently have three adult children and a most thoroughly worthless farm dog named Dog.

{ 24 comments… add one }
  • Pocketgunner November 18, 2019, 4:38 am

    Just cannot say enough about the quality of the Kahr and their triggers. They are actually “Perfect” Imo for a concealed carry. Yes, I have owned light striker fired triggers, fell into the FAD like many. But got rid of all of them. Just too unsafe. I see Newbies coming up to the counter now and asking for the lightest trigger with the shortest reset. They are the first to say a Smooth DAO is a “horrible Trigger”. Of course they would not know one if one hit them in the fact. Kahr firearms are almost mystical in the mild shooting characteristic. My 380 and 9mm’s are down right soft. And all of their guns are pieces that you can just hold and admire in your hand. Beautiful craftsmanship.
    Nice article. Thanks

  • Brad November 14, 2017, 3:18 am

    I’ve owned/enjoyed just about everything Kahr has produced over the past +/- 20-years (and I still have several), and I can honestly say that I’ve never had even a single instance of any type of a malfunction whatsoever.

    If you closely look at the primary design aspects of all Kahr’s, they are all almost perfectly the same. They’re all extremely thin, light, have unsurpassed triggers, the vast majority of them have (1) single actuator / control lever. And it’s not a safety, because the fantastically, smooth, long-stroke trigger pretty much completely eliminates any need for one. The majority of Kahr’s are very reasonably priced (under $400) and their customer service is beyond great.

    Send a Kahr back to their Service Center and wait and see what you likely get returned. It likely won’t be a new pistol, but they’ll replace/upgrade every piece/part they possibly can (without charge) and send you back something better than what you originally sent them (at least that’s been my experience, more than once). They’ll even call you on the telephone to see if you’re satisfied, etc.. I’ve spoke with a couple of their “in-house” Smith’s on occasions where they called me. Something I sincerely appreciated. I’m obviously a big fan. I’ve got more than sufficient reason to be.

    Don’t even get me started on Kimber’s Customer Service! They’re just as good, only with much more expensive stuff.

  • Phil November 13, 2017, 4:06 pm

    I carried a P9 for years and loved it. They really are that thin and light compared to other options they make a lot of sense. The P9 has Kahr’s older octogonal rifling which was advertised as more accurate.

    It was incredibly accurate. With stock sights it had no problem making nice groups at 25 yards. I got a 9mm Shield when they came out. It was good but not any better. The only reason I stopped carrying the Kahr was because it wasn’t a Glock. The G43 works for me because it’s the same dimensions and I prefer the Glock trigger after using them for 15 years. The Kahr is now a safe queen.
    The interesting thing about this S9 is it isn’t really any different than my P9 which was made 18 years ago, not in an appreciable way. I think Kahr is feeling the loss of their share of the carry gun market. Who’s really going to put a weapon light on one of these?

    • Chris Hale November 15, 2017, 11:20 pm

      You would have to be a complete fucking moron to prefer a glock to a Kahr. The Kahr is more accurate, more reliable, has a much nicer trigger.

  • d November 13, 2017, 3:05 pm

    I actually am an old Revolver Guy. A 357 always makes me smile. Over the years I played with semi-autos, and those go back to the original Rem, M41 if I remember correctly, and I sold that one as it earned it retirement. I played with everything from a 32acp up to 45acp. I have owned most in mini size as what else should a guy use for an Always With Me gun. Of the 9s I like the Solo best, but I carry my cm9. Well actually I carry a PM40, but the CM9 is next in line. The M&P Compact in 40 is nice, but a hair on the large size. My cut the grass/garage gun is a DE or S&W in 380, and yes you can Hot them up. Heck my 32acp is hotted up, and a great fun little thing. The new Gen2 Taurus should not be over looked. I have it in 40 and I like it. I like 40, but there ain’t a thing wrong with a good 9. Good articular. Thanks Dave

  • Charles November 13, 2017, 11:05 am

    My wife’s Kahr CW 9 had a FTFeed in the first mag and another in the 2nd mag. Nothing in the subsequent 5-600 rounds. Shoots to point of aim. It has been reliable. She shoots it well with Federal 147 gr Hydra-shocks. She does however prefer a larger caliber for most of her carrying. She carries a 3 inch Kimber 45 auto in her bag. 3 days ago I bought a Kimber Micro 9 with CT grips and I am thinking she is gonna try to glom onto it. The Kahrs seem to be a good value for a carry gun… And for all those people out there who have such and such a firearm that has NEVER failed…even the Grock fans…the key word to remember is YET! It can happen to anyone. Think Murphy

  • carter November 13, 2017, 10:33 am

    I shoot the PM9 better than any other pistol its size, and better than plenty of full size guns. that’s because i shoot it a lot but also because it’s very shootable. once a man with even average size hands realizes he needs to use the middle digit of his trigger finger for a straight pull, he then sees the gun point naturally and acheives clean breaks. it’s what i’ve carried for years. i never had any jamming issues with it. i did have a problem with bending a spring that engages the slide stop as others mentioned and had to get a new spring (free of charge). that’s not a deal breaker to me. it hasnt happened again, and the gun functioned with the bent/mishappen spring. i test fired to see before the replacement arrived.

  • Scott Thomas November 13, 2017, 10:03 am

    I had one of these for about 6 weeks. I bought it, purchased a couple extra mags (I hate reloading at the range), bought a nice holster for it and then I went and shot it. First off, it was finicky. I hate picky guns. Second, it kicked like a mule. I sold it straight away.

  • Russ H. November 13, 2017, 10:00 am

    I recently went shopping, asking for \”a quality compact or subcompact striker fired single stack 9mm.\” I was shown Walther, S&W M&P, Glock, and Springfield (and a single action Sig and Kimber – I suppose they had to try). No one showed me a Kahr and they were sitting right there each time. I bought the Glock 43 and I don\’t like Glock\’s – more of a Sig guy – but the Glock is pretty impressive (once the trigger was smoothed out). Anyway, no one I know proudly talks about their Kahr when discussing their firearms – I know little about them though, other than they are inexpensive and they import Magnum Research guns.

    • Aardvark November 13, 2017, 11:35 am

      I own the Ruger LCP Custom (.380), the M&P Shield 9 and 40, the XDS, and my newest and favorite carry, the Walther PPS M2 9mm LE. All of these have proven to be 100% reliable, accurate, and easy to carry and clean. The Walther just shoots better overall for me. Very comfortable to hold and carry, nice trigger, comes with 3 mags (6, 7, & 8 rounds) and phosphorus 3 dot sights. My next favorite would be either one of the Shields, followed by the LCP and then the XDS. I really like the XDS except the trigger isn’t quite as good as the others and the grip is almost too aggressive.

      • Brad November 14, 2017, 4:20 am

        Considering the “carry” pistols mentioned within your comment, we’ll have to assume you’ve never bothered to try out a Kahr. (Salesmen don’t save your life, they sell guns).

        There is really no carry comparison to a Kahr .40 or .45 caliber pistol. I own the pistols you mentioned, and can assure you none are better. Perhaps in fully-loaded weight, but not in overall performance, concealability, etc.

        Take a logical look at what Kahr offers on almost every pistol they manufacture: thin, single-stack (7 – -8 rounds), remarkably safe trigger, typically one (1) single operating lever (no safety needed), light, ergonomic and very reasonably priced and guaranteed forever.

        My Kahr’s perform as they are advertised. I personally believe they are considerably under-marketed, extremely good (highly-patented) conceal firearms that deserve serious consideration from everyone looking for such a firearm.

        At the moment, I can’t imagine a better design philosophy that would make conceal-carry type firearms more user friendly. Kahr’s are all thin, relatively inexpensive, EXTREMELY SIMPLE for ANYONE TO OPERATE and guaranteed go boom every time the trigger gets pulled.

        What else could anyone ask for in a personal protection device?

  • burns November 13, 2017, 9:40 am

    I carry a PM9 and swear by them for 7-8 years now, I have all the glocks amd 1911’s, but the Kahr sees duty every day in a pocket holster

  • dan November 13, 2017, 9:35 am

    I owned a Kahr PM9 with nights sights and black finish that cost WAY more than it should have, and was far too temperamental to carry for self defense. It was the perfect size to slip in a pocket, and was very accurate, but even after their so-called “break in period” it did not feed reliably, and had a tiny spring that was easily bent when dis-assembling/assembling. I ended up getting about a third of what I paid for it, which is a good indication of what the public’s perception of these pistols. I still have a CM40 that I keep as a toy/novelty item, and have a couple of those little springs available for the inevitable screw up while assembling. A person would be much better off purchasing a Glock 43, S&W Bodyguard, or XDS if you want a reliable, and affordable 9mm concealed carry piece!

    • Phil November 13, 2017, 3:24 pm

      I bought a Kahr P9 used on gunbroker for $350. Some people also pay sticker price for cars.

      My problem was I couldn’t leave it as is and had work done to it so now I’m underwater on it. It was a great carry gun that is now a safe queen.

  • Andy P November 13, 2017, 8:18 am

    Not only is this a very informative article, it is also very well written (something you rarely see nowadays with most on-line pieces harboring numerous spelling errors and horrific grammar). The topic is perfectly paragraphed with sentences that flow smoothly and points segue painlessly. Nice job.

  • Zorro November 13, 2017, 7:53 am

    Yawn…. Ho-Hum, another .9mm compact carry gun Good Grief, enough already. How about some forward thinking and innovation and come out with something NEW …!!!

    • Dan November 13, 2017, 9:37 am

      Amen brother! How about a Glock 43 clone with ambidextrous decockers?

    • Mahatma Muhjesbude November 13, 2017, 10:45 am

      Yeah, Zorro, I agree, let’s bring back the GYROGET ROCKET PISTOL!!! This time in FULL Auto!

  • akjc77 November 13, 2017, 6:40 am

    Does all Kahr actions advise a break in period still? They used to specify expect some hiccups til after 200 or 300 rounds down the pipe? I always wondered if that was unique to their design or just the company being more honest than other brands?

    • Dan November 13, 2017, 9:43 am

      Temperamental design that should be obsolete since their competitors like Glock, Smith & Wesson, and others are able to produce more affordable pistols that are reliable right out of the box! I would never have trusted my Kahr PM9 for self defense, but my Glock, S&W Bodyguard, and XDs have never hiccuped right from the get go!

    • Mahatma Muhjesbude November 13, 2017, 10:37 am

      When I try a new pistol right out of the box, (not .22 Long Rifles) No matter what the caliber I usually put several different rounds in the same mag. Take about 200 hundred rounds of these loaded in mags. And blast through them all as fast as I can. Even one sneeze or hiccup and if it wasn’t the complete fault of bad ammo or a bad magazine, I won’t carry it. Never trust a gun that you have to ‘break in’ to get it to work smoothly.

  • Mark N. November 10, 2017, 1:24 am

    It took me a while to figure out how the S9 differs from my CW9. It comes down to different sights (three dot instead of dot and post), front slide serrations, and the “diminutive rail” under the barrel. If you can skip those additions, the CW9 runs around $350 or less retail these days. I agree with the review; I love my Kahr and have comfortably carried it for a number of years now. The one thing I don’t like about it is the point at which the sear finally breaks–it is so close to the back of the frame that it is a bit more difficult to fire than it ought to be. Also, being a keyboard jockey, I have soft hands, and the aggressive checkering on the front and back straps was painful for me. I added a Hogue HandAll Jr. that is made for this specific pistol, which provides a soft rubber shell, palms swells on both sides that make the gun a much better fit, and a single finger ridge on the front strap. For my midsized hands, it is a perfect fit.

    Oh, and the gun has been utterly reliable, even through the recommended 200 round break-in.

    • Pat M. November 13, 2017, 8:47 am

      Thanks for summing up the differences. I prefer the size of my CM9 for carry but the CW is a great value. The price on this S9 seems reasonable though, it does include an extra magazine also.

    • sifter November 13, 2017, 11:15 am

      I agree, it’s too close to the cw9 to warrant additional cash outlay. My cw9 is just fine.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend