The popularity of micro and sub-compact .380 ACP pocket pistols is well established, but there is an increasing trend toward making similar-size guns for the more powerful 9 mm Luger cartridge. Kahr Arms, a longtime leader in manufacturing high-quality compact pistols, has offered its popular polymer-frame PM9 since 2003, but now the firm has introduced a reduced-cost version, the CM9.
The CM9 is a sub-compact, polymer-frame, semi-automatic, double-action-only, striker-fired, recoil-operated pistol chambered in 9 mm Luger with a six-round-capacity magazine. Despite several cost-saving measures that differentiate the CM9 from the PM9, there is no shirking where it counts, and Kahr’s seven design patents are incorporated into this pistol.
The machined 416 stainless steel slide has a matte finish and simplified engraving with the company name and model designation. Overall the slide has less machining than on the PM9 but is still well-executed without appearing overly utilitarian. The sights are well-thought-out with the effective and low-cost polymer front unit featuring a large white dot. The steel rear unit is dovetailed into the slide and is drift-adjustable. It features a wide bar for a sight picture that looks like a lower case letter “i” when the sights are aligned.
The black polymer frame has a rounded trigger guard that angles upward slightly toward the front, making the pistol easier to holster and giving it a smaller profile. The grip frame has aggressive checkering on the frontstrap and backstrap that aids in retention. The frame’s sides have a pebble texture, and, despite its small dimensions, it fills the hand well. Internally the receiver has 4140 steel inserts molded into the front and rear that provide strength and stability for slide travel.
Many pistols of this size either have no slide stop/release or include a very small one. The CM9 features a full-size and fully usable slide stop/release, which locks the action open on an empty magazine. The magazine release is also metal for extended service life and securely retains the drop-free magazine. The CM9 ships with one six-round-capacity, stainless-steel magazine with a flush baseplate and Wolff gunsprings. A seven-round-capacity version with a finger extension is available for those seeking a larger grip area and additional capacity.
The basic, pared-down design of the CM9 includes no external manual safety or loaded-chamber indicator. The external extractor protrudes slightly if a cartridge case is in the chamber, but that should not replace visual inspection. There is also no magazine disconnect safety, and the pistol will fire with a live round chambered and no magazine inserted.
There is an effective and passive internal safety in the form of a firing pin/striker block. When the action is cycled the striker is partially charged and remains under tension, held securely in place by the firing pin/striker block. The safety is only overridden by the cocking cam trigger system, which both releases the block and completes the charging of the striker before releasing it to fire the pistol. As the striker must be pre-charged by slide movement, there is no second-strike capability.
Another beneficial design feature lies in the slightly offset recoil lug and trigger bar attachment, which allow for a lower-profile barrel design that is more in line with the axis of the shooting hand. The pistol also features a dual-recoil-spring system with a standard removable spring surrounding a guide assembly that includes its own internal spring. The CM9’s short 3-inch stainless-steel barrel has traditional rifling instead of the more expensive polygonal rifling found on the PM9, but accuracy does not appear to be affected.
On the range the CM9’s stainless steel trigger broke at a smooth 6 pounds, 8 ounces with no stacking, which helped produce good results firing both offhand and from the bench. There were no malfunctions experienced despite most testing occurring within the manufacturer’s recommended 200-round break-in period. Weighing only 14 ounces empty, the little pistol did deliver significant recoil, as 9 mm Luger produces significantly more energy on average than the .380 ACP. That said, the CM9 remained controllable during a full range session.
Maintenance and disassembly are easily accomplished on the CM9 with a bit of practice and after accounting for the heavy spring pressure on the slide. There is much to be appreciated from Kahr’s customer-driven approach to providing a quality pistol suitable for concealed carry at a significantly reduced cost from some of the company’s other offerings. The CM9 offers all that is needed in a good self-defense pistol and more.