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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.