Kahr Arms CW380 Pistol Review

posted on June 13, 2014

Kahr Arms has been manufacturing single-stack, polymer-frame semi-automatic pistols since the mid-1990s. The company’s P-series of premium, lightweight, concealed carry pistols has garnered a reputation for excellent quality and reliability. Recognizing that not every customer is able to pay top dollar for a defensive firearm, Kahr developed and continues to grow its CW line of pistols. A recent addition to the line is the CW380 pistol, chambered in .380 ACP and based on the P380.

The cost-reducing changes to the CW380 include a cosmetically simplified 0.75"-wide Kahr_CW380_Backstrapmatte stainless steel slide with beveled edges and roll marks in place of the more elaborate engraving of the P380. The white-dot front sight is polymer and pinned in place, whereas the P-series pistols feature a metallic dovetailed front sight. The stainless steel slide catch is constructed using metal injection molding techniques instead of being machined from solid stock. The 2.58" Lothar Walther match-grade barrel with polygonal rifling used in the P380 has been replaced by a standard barrel with six grooves and 1:16" right-hand-twist rifling. Finally, the pistol ships with just one six-round stainless steel magazine instead of two.

As a result of these changes, the CW380 is approximately one-third less to purchase than the P380. However, the remaining features of the pistol reflect the proven design of the original guns. The slide is fitted with an extended extractor claw to aid in positive ejection of spent cartridges, and the dovetailed metallic rear sight is drift-adjustable and of the white-bar combat configuration. The recoil assembly consists of a full-length steel guide rod fitted with two round-wire recoil springs.

The polymer frame contains steel inserts molded into the interior of the dust cover, polymer rails, and short steel inserts at the rear of the frame, all of which support the slide as it cycles. The rounded trigger guard houses a smooth-faced stainless steel trigger. An oval-shaped magazine release button is located on the left side of the frame. The grip frame provides enough room for a two-finger grip when using the flat-base six-round stainless steel magazine. It features molded-in checkering along the front and back straps with light texturing on the side panels.

Kahr describes the CW380 as a double-action-only, trigger-cocking semi-automatic pistol, which denotes a striker-fired ignition system. The pistol does not have an external safety, a magazine disconnect or a loaded-chamber indicator. An internal passive striker block safety prevents the pistol from firing unless the trigger is fully depressed.

Several modern pocket-size .380 pistols employ a simple blowback action, relying on the weight of the slide and the recoil assembly to retard the rearward movement of the slide. However, this pistol’s action is of the locked-breech variety, employing a barrel hood that locks into the ejection port. The CW380’s slide locks open when the last round is fired, yet another feature commonly missing in many sub-compact .380 ACPs.

On the range the CW380 proved to be a reliable pistol. Some pocket semi-automatics chambered for .380 ACP, due to their blowback operation and low weight, can produce a snappy or intense level of felt recoil. The locked-breech action of this pistol tangibly reduced the perceived recoil and muzzle rise. The low-profile sights were relatively small and, therefore, not the easiest to acquire but they were certainly adequate for close-range defensive applications.


Kahr included its highly acclaimed trigger system on the CW380. The trigger has a factory rating of 5 lbs., 8 ozs., of pull. This particular pistol’s trigger was lighter at 5 lbs., 4 ozs., according to a Lyman digital trigger gauge. After a quarter-inch of takeup, the trigger moved through its arc of travel smoothly to finish with a crisp, clean break; however, the trigger reset was relatively long, requiring almost a full release to the starting point. The wide, rounded trigger is shaped properly, preventing the abrasion or bruising to the trigger finger that some pocket pistols can deliver.

The owner’s manual provided with the CW380 recommends a 200-round break-in period before the pistol is to be considered fully reliable. Our example, however, ran without any malfunctions throughout the entirety of the function and accuracy testing process, through the first 200 rounds and beyond. The CW380 proved to be dependable with a variety of loads ranging from value-priced full-metal-jacket practice rounds to defense-grade hollow points.

Accuracy testing was comprised of firing five, five-shot groups from a benchrest into targets set at a distance of 7 yds. The four ammunition varieties fired, including three defensive cartridges and one practice-grade load, averaged 1.54" at that distance. Defensive drills at this same distance produced tight central groups on the targets. The smooth trigger certainly contributed to the pistol's accuracy.

In reducing the cost of the CW series of pistol, Kahr has preserved the core features, functionality and quality of its premium pistol line. The engineering of these unique concealed-carry pistols and the proven reliability of this American-made design combine to offer real value for the money. The CW380 does not feel or perform like a low-grade knock-off of the original gun. Instead, it provides the same shooting experience as the premium Kahr pistols, but without the frills and a more affordable price.

Model: CW3833

Manufacturer: Kahr Arms,130 Goddard Memorial Drive, Worcester, MA 01603; (508) 795-3919; kahr.com

Caliber: .380 ACP

Action Type: double-action-only, locked-breech, striker-fired semi-automatic center-fire pistol

Frame: black textured polymer

Slide: matte 416R stainless steel

Barrel: 2.58" stainless steel

Rifling: six-groove, 1:16" RH twist

Sights: drift-adjustable white bar rear, pinned polymer white-dot front

Trigger: single-stage; 5-lb., 4-oz. pull

Overall Length: 4.96"

Width: 0.77"

Height: 3.90"

Weight: 11.5 ozs.

Accessories: owner’s manual

Suggested Retail Price: $419



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