by B. Gil Horman - Tuesday, October 14, 2014
It's interesting to hear the buzz going on in the shooting community about the new compact concealed- carry semi-auto pistols arriving on the market. As of this writing, the internet is burning up with chatter about the recently released 9 mm single-stack pistols, because their power levels trump the “that’s-so-last-year” .380 pocket pistols that were the talk of the town a couple of years ago.
Reliable, lightweight compact pistols chambered for potent defensive calibers are nothing new. In fact, Kahr Arms has been manufacturing high-quality single-stacks since the mid 1990s. Over the years, the company's P-series of premium lightweight polymer-framed semi-autos has earned a reputation for top-notch construction and reliable function.
The P-Series pistols come at a price that not all customers are willing to pay and the competition has been finding ways to bring the price of their pistols down. In order to keep stride with the other slim-line carry guns, Kahr has been steadily growing its CW and CT value lines. These models have the key features that Kahr uses in its premium pistols at a more affordable price. For 2014, Kahr opted not to go head-to-head with the new 9 mms. Instead, the company upped the ante with the model CT45 chambered in .45 ACP and CT40 in .40 S&W. This review will take a look at the performance of the CT40 pistol.
Weighing in at 23.9-ounces unloaded, the CT40 has what the company calls a trigger-cocking double-action-only trigger. This indicates a striker-fired ignition system. This pistol's action is of the locked-breech variety, employing a Browning-style recoil lug and tilting barrel. The result of using this type of action is a tangible reduction in felt recoil.
The 0.95-inch wide matte stainless steel slide, which locks open when a final round is fired, is topped with a dovetailed drift-adjustable white bar combat rear sight and a white dot front sight. The slide is milled with rear serrations for improved cycling and is fitted with an extended extractor claw to aid in positive ejection of spent cartridges. The slide is supported by steel inserts molded into the dust cover and the rear of the polymer frame, along with polymer rails that reach from the back of the frame to the interior edge of the trigger guard. The recoil assembly consists of a full-length steel guide rod fitted with a heavy round-wire recoil spring.
The pistol’s controls, including an oval-shaped magazine release button and slide catch, are located on the left side of the frame. The pistol does not have an external thumb safety, a loaded chamber indicator or a magazine disconnect. However, an internal passive striker block safety prevents the pistol from firing unless the trigger is pulled. The wide, smooth-faced stainless steel trigger of this particular pistol required 5 pounds 6 ounces of trigger pull to cycle, making it 2-ounces lighter than the listed trigger weight.
The rounded trigger guard is undercut at the grip face to give the middle finger of the shooting hand a little breathing room. The grip frame provides enough room for a full three-finger grip and features molded in checkering along the front and backstraps with light texturing on the side panels. The CT40 accepts Kahr's seven-round 40-7 magazines.
So far the CT40 looks to be the same as the PT40, so where is the cost reduction taking place? One of the cost-reducing changes to the CT40 is that it ships with just one magazine instead of two. The slide also features simplified cosmetics, including sharply beveled edges and roll marks instead of the more expensive mill work and engraving of the premium TP40 version. The machined stainless steel slide catch has been replaced by a component formed using metal injection molding techniques, and the front sight is a pinned polymer design in place of a metallic dovetailed sight. The 4-inch premium Lothar Walther match-grade barrel, with polygonal rifling, has been traded out for a 4-inch barrel with traditional six-groove rifling. With these changes in place, the CT40 has a suggested retail price that’s about $250 lower than the premium version in the same caliber and configuration.
At the shooting range, I expected the CT40 to run reliably with a mixed variety of full-metal-jacket and hollow-point ammunition, which it did. The owner's manual shipped with the pistol recommends a 200-round break in period for reliable function. But this pistol ran reliably throughout the test with no malfunctions at all. I was also planning to get slapped around a bit by the snappy recoil of the .40 S&W ammunition flying from a fairly light semi-auto with a narrow grip. It was a pleasant surprise to discover how manageable the recoil was, even with heavier defense-grade loads. I'm not saying the pistol had no recoil but it was more on par with what I would expect a 9 mm of the same size to feel like, not a .40.
The level of accuracy was top-notch for an out-of-the-box striker-fired pistol. When a defensive semi-auto like this one can produce five-shot groups of about 3.5 inches from a benchrest using iron sights at 25 yards, then it's reasonable to say the gun has a reliable level of defensive accuracy. But the CT40 did better than that, with five-shot groups ranging from 2.52 inches to 3.31 inches in size. The best five-group average of 2.86-inches was achieved using Barnes Tac XPD 140-grain all-copper hollow points. Hornady's Critical Duty 175-grain Flexlock yielded a 2.87-inch average, followed by Winchester's W Defend 180-grain jacketed hollow point at 2.97-inches.
The American-made Kahr Arms CT40 represents an excellent balance of size, accuracy and reliability in an affordable defensive pistol. There's nothing about this semi-auto that looks or feels like a "value-priced” gun. Some companies end up throwing the baby out with the bathwater when they lower the cost of their guns by cutting away the features customers want. Kahr, on the other hand, has done a great job of preserving the primary features, functionality and dependability folks want in their expanding CT line up.
Manufacturer: Kahr Arms; Kahr.com
Model: CT40 (Value Series)
Action: Trigger Cocking Double-Action Only
Caliber: 40 S&W
Slide: Matte Stainless Steel
Frame: Textured Black Polymer
Front Sight: Pinned Polymer White Dot
Rear Sight: Drift Adjustable White Bar Combat
Barrel Length: 4 Inches
Overall Length: 6.5”
Slide Width: 0.94”
Weight: 23.9 ozs with empty magazine
Capacity: 7+1 Rounds
Twist: 1:16” RH
Rifle Grooves: 6
Accessories: One Magazine, Hard Case, Owner's Manual, Lock
Suggested Retail Price: $449
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