Kahr P45 .45 ACP Pistol Review

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Having been retired for some years, my needs in a carry gun, which I’m authorized to pack under my retirement status, have changed significantly, but I decided early on that if I were going to bother carrying something, that it would be of sufficient chambering to get the job done if called upon. Okay, I confess, I have packed a few .32s and .380s (maybe even a .25 once or twice) in my time and do share a real affinity for the titanium-cylindered, aluminum-framed Centennial from Smith & Wesson; but most days find me packing a Kahr P9 in 9mm.

kahr2.gifThe Kahr P9 is a remarkable little pistol handling all manner of 9mm loadings, yet doing so in at a very packable 21 ounces when fully loaded. Although it can be had in .40 caliber, I’m quite content with today’s advancements in ammunition performance, to pack it chambered in 9mm with its capacity of 7 + 1. I had my P9 worked over several years ago and they lightly melded its slide, recontoured and polished its trigger and innards, and installed a set of Novak tritium sights. These subtle enhancements made what was already a great little gun just that much better.

I’ve found the P9 to be just big enough to fit my large paws yet just small enough to be easily concealed and carried. Its accuracy is first-rate and its DAO trigger system quite safe and controllable.

Several years ago I discovered the perfect (for me, anyway) way to pack my P9. A company called Skyline Toolworks produces a carry system they call the “Clipdraw.” With a model to fit just about anything you’d wish to carry concealed, I’ve had a Universal Clipdraw installed on my P9 for several years now. It’s a spring steel clip that affixes to my Kahr via the use of a “very high bond” double-sided tape and allows me to carry my piece sans holster. I found that with the weapon worn cross-draw on my left side with the “Clip” positioned over the top of my pants, but under my belt, the P9 rides comfortably and stays secured without the additional girth of a holster to keep it there (see photo pg 23). 

Kahr’s New P45
Since I’ve been totally happy with my P9, it took me a while to get around to testing a P45, the slightly grown-up version of my prized P9; however, a recent trade at my local gun haunt, Old West Gun & Loan, has changed all that. Only fractionally larger than my P9, my new polymer-framed P45 houses six .45ACP rounds. Where my P9 tipped the scale at a mere 16.9 ounces with an empty magazine in place, my new P45 exceeded that weight by a mere 3.6 ounces. The P45 is a full 7 ounces lighter than my custom Swenson Lightweight Commander that I faithfully packed for so many years, although with the proper magazine I could get another two rounds on board the Swenson LW Commander.

Dimensionally, the P45 is only 0.30 of an inch taller and 0.27 of an inch longer than my P9, while slide width differed only by 0.10 of an inch with the P45’s slide measuring in right at 1-inch thick. Grip thickness differed by a mere 0.09 of an inch with the P45 being the more comfortable (to my hand) of the two. Where about one-third of my pinky finger hangs below the P9’s extended magazine pad, my whole hand fits the grip on the P45. Again, the grip length on the P9 never presented a problem to me when shooting it and always concealed well, but the slightly longer grip of the P45 felt like it was made for my hand. With its slightly increased girth, the P45 trigger reach measured only right at 0.10 of an inch longer than the one on the P9. People with hands on the smallish side might prefer the reach on the P9 to the P45, but both felt good to me.

Both the P9’s and P45’s polymer frames came with raised checkering on their front and back straps, but that found on the P45 was definitely more pronounced. This is probably a good thing with the increase in recoil I expected with the P45’s larger chambering than my P9.

Although I’ve really gotten used to the melding on my P9, Kahr has done a good job ensuring that there’s nothing present on their pistols, as issued, to scrape or abrade. Its muzzle has been subtly beveled for ease in reholstering, and the rest of it has been addressed so no sharp edges are present. Both front and rear sights on the P45 are dovetailed into its slide and those that came on this pistol are of low profile and display the commonly encountered bar-dot arrangement in white. Optional sights include those designed by Novak, MMC, MeproLight, Trijicon, and the Big Dot setup from XS Sight Systems are available from Kahr.

The trigger on this P45, like all previous Kahrs I’ve handled, has to be experienced to be appreciated. It took but 5.6 pounds to cycle on this new P45, which is what I’ve come to expect from Kahr pistols right out of their boxes. With some practice time at the range to get used to its somewhat longer but smooth stroke, the DAO trigger of the Kahr is quite controllable and quick to put into action. All one needs to do to fire a Kahr is pull its trigger; there are no safeties to disengage and the pull is just long enough to discourage the ugly unintentional discharge that light, single-action triggers can be prone to in times of stress. For the civilian concealed carrier or police work, the DAO trigger system has a lot going for it but like the double-action revolver, sufficient range time is required to be able to shoot it well.

The Kahr has internal safeties incorporated into its design that make it absolutely safe to carry with a round chambered and to prevent accidental firing should it be dropped. The P45 fires from a locked breech utilizing a modified Browning-type recoil lug. Its barrel is 3.54 inches long and has polygonal rifling with a right-hand twist rate of 1-in-10 inches. It’s also available with a blackened stainless slide should one prefer a more covert-looking pistol.

The P45 comes with two 7-round stainless magazines, both of which are equipped with extended removable base pads. These removable base pads allow easy access to the magazine’s internals for inspection and cleaning. Since I haven’t yet mentioned Kahr’s magazine release button, it’s located appropriately at the rear of its triggerguard on the left side, but unfortunately for you left-handers out there, it’s not reversible.

Range Time
To try out my new P45 I gathered up five different commercial .45 ACP loadings, four featuring bullets weighing 230 grains and one firing a much lighter 165-grain projectile. With my targets set at 20 yards downrange, I was pleased to see the first five rounds put through this new pistol form a tight little group just left of my point of aim measuring a respectable 1.4 inches. This was with some Winchester USA 230-grain FMJs, a bullet type (hardball) not normally known for its accuracy. Recoil was brisk but not uncomfortable. Everything was going smoothly until I got to round #36 when I experienced my first malfunction. By now I had switched to a +P loading from Hornady and at about halfway through the first magazine of this ammo, the slide on the Kahr stopped short by about an eighth of an inch from moving into battery. A slight nudge on the rear of its slide closed it. A few rounds later and it happened again and a switch to another brand of ammo failed to eliminate this occasional mishap. I decided to forgo any further shooting of this piece until I had a chance to clean it and examine it more closely.

A later dismantling and cleaning identified what I believed to be causing the problem. It didn’t seem to have enough recoil spring tension when the slide was in its closed position. It ran out of “poop” in its last one eighth of an inch or so of travel indicating the need for a new, if not more powerful, recoil spring. A call to Kahr revealed that they had a few problems with early springs in this model, and in short order I received two new springs in the mail. A side-by-side comparison of the old and new springs revealed the newer spring to be a full one-inch longer than the original spring, although coil count of all three springs remained the same, seeming to indicate that the original spring had taken a set. My micrometer measured the new spring material to be about 0.001 of an inch larger in diameter, adding to its increased tension. With one of the new springs installed, the Kahr’s slide now had discernible spring tension throughout its entire travel. 

A second trip to the range confirmed that this had indeed been the problem and the P45 now cycled with utter reliability on all brands of ammo put through it, except for one. The Kahr’s operating instructions warn that, “The Kahr pistol must run through an initial break-in period before achieving fully reliable feeding and functioning. The pistol should not be considered fully reliable until after it has fired 200 rounds.” Well, mine now has about 250 rounds through it and it has cycled everything I’ve fed it without hesitation (even some lead-bulleted reloads), except for the +P loading from Hornady. Although this load has proven to be quite compatible with several other .45s I own, the Kahr wouldn’t reliably chamber it. After some careful measuring and comparison to other factory rounds, I’ve come to the conclusion that the problem involves overall cartridge length, with the Hornady bullet loaded a trifle too long and the throat (or lead) in the Kahr’s chamber being a trifle too short to accommodate it. This doesn’t mean that either the Hornady round or the Kahr are faulty, it just means that this is not a reliable union of gun and ammo. The Kahr performed with 100 percent reliability with everything else put through it, so the solution here is to just avoid the use of this round in this pistol.

The Kahr proved itself to be a 2.5- to 3.5-inch gun at 20 yards. It particularly liked Winchester’s 230-grain SXT loading and this would be my choice in a carry round unless I find something later it likes better. Recoil was brisk but not objectionable with everything I tried in the Kahr except for some 230-grain lead, round-nosed reloads that my chrono said were traveling just shy of 700 feet per second (fps). These loads were downright pleasant to fire out of the P45 and made plinking with this piece a pleasure.

Kahr Carry
Although I haven’t ordered up any leather for my most recent acquisition, I did find that the P45 was close enough dimensionally to my P9 to fit into one of my holsters I had for it. It’s the Kydex No. 1K IWB holster from FIST. Formed out of ultrathin Kydex, this material provides for a secure, rigid pouch, while not adding any appreciable thickness to the overall package. It’s equipped with a 1-1/4-inch wide belt clip that’s designed to stay on the belt and not come out with the gun during the draw. 

I recall several comical but potentially dangerous instances when one of my narc partners drew down on a suspect only to realize he was not only pointing his pistol at the offender but his holster, that had accompanied the gun from his waistband, as well. The material this holster is made from provides sufficient stiffness that its top remains open allowing easy one-handed reholstering as well. My new P45 snapped in and out of the 1K like it was made for it. FIST has a full line of carry and concealment holsters, belts and accessories, and even offers a Hybrid Series of holsters made from a laminate of leather and Kydex resulting in a holster with the beauty and strength of leather coupled with the speed of draw afforded by the slickness of Kydex.

Final Notes
I truly like my new P45. I’m considering changing out its rear sight to one made by Novak (and available from Kahr), but other than that I’m happy with it just the way it is. Will I now sell my P9? Heavens no! It’s still my most-favored carry pistol. But should I find myself in need (either real or perceived) to launch much bigger projectiles from a convenient-to-carry-and-conceal platform, the P45 will be the piece I turn to.

Kahr also offers several other pistols chambered for the .45ACP round. Kahr will have other new products Jan. 09.


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  • http://www.vranasecurities.com Mike Vrana

    The 9mm is great as self defense round and the principle can normaly expend enough rounds to get to safety.However,point shooting is the key for this scene.You will not have the time to use two hand target aquisition normaly.You may have to open car door or door to building.As in stairwell escape.