Celebrating milestones is one of society’s most practiced traditions. We have birthdays and anniversaries for nearly every possible thing or event imaginable. In part, it is a way to admire and recognize the achievement of longevity in a world made of fleeting things. Whether it be celebrating the duration of our grandparent’s marriage or the number of years we graduated high school – we love a parade for things that last.
This is especially true for products that endure in markets that can be fickle and heavily competitive. And if the market for a small concealable 9mm handgun isn’t the poster child of that concept, then I don’t know what is. Twenty-five years ago, Kahr Arms introduced the K9 pistol to the market. Striker fired, yet made of solid stainless steel. Tiny compared to everything else on the market, yet more rugged and reliable than most. And while meant to be carried covertly, it is quite pleasing to the eye.
The K9 really helped define Kahr Arms and has its DNA in everything they’ve made since. When you consider how many handguns come to market amid much fanfare and then quietly fade away, the celebration of a silver anniversary for the K9 is indeed something special, and a parade worth going to.
To celebrate this grand achievement, Kahr Arms is producing a Limited Edition 25th Anniversary K9. Only 500 of these unique pistols will be made, each engraved with its individual number. In addition, the pistol comes as a special 25th Anniversary package that includes several custom extras. At its core though, it is still the same sound and solid K9 that helped create a revolution in the handgun industry and put Kahr on the map.
The anniversary edition pistol is the same K9 that Kahr offers in several other configurations – just made special by its exclusive aesthetics and extras, as one would expect. Here is a summary of those ‘extras’:
The 25th Anniversary K9 also includes a certificate of authenticity – with the same gun number. In this case, the gun that Kahr sent me for review is number 145 of 500. I had seen photos of the pistol before receiving it, so I had a good idea what to expect, but I was still a bit surprised at the beauty of the finish in person. Kahr calls it “Sniper Grey” – it’s a Cerakote finish and done to perfection.
The aluminum grips that were custom made by Hogue set it off beautifully. The grips include “Kahr” engraved on one side panel and “K9” on the other. In addition to being quite fetching to look at, they offer a nice sturdy grasp on the gun and should be very durable. The front strap was left baby’s butt smooth, and while it might be tempting to lament the lack of checkering there, I think that was the right decision.
The dimensions and mechanics are no different than the standard production K9, which is, of course, a fine handgun in any of the half-dozen or so configurations available. Kahr outfitted the Anniversary gun with TruGlo night sights, which contain tritium to illuminate in darkness. Three magazines are also provided. I received two 7-round mags and one 8-rounder with the slightly extended baseplate. They are single-stack magazines, and have two extras on you while carrying the pistol is an easy accomplishment. And speaking of carrying the pistol – Kahr lets us know right off the bat that this gun is meant to be used, not stuck in some presentation box or tucked away in the back of the safe. A holster is provided with the gun – and not just any holster, but one made by one of my favorite leather holster makers – 1791 Gunleather.
The holster is an OWB in black leather and it quite literally fits this pistol like a glove. To put some icing on that cake, the holster also is engraved with the “25 years” designation to match that on the slide. Well, if Kahr is going to outfit this pretty custom pistol with a leather holster – they clearly mean for it to be carried. And if they mean for it to be carried, then they intended for it to be shot. I’ve not met a gun yet that was too nice to shoot – so I got about the business of seriously testing it.
SHOOTING THE K9 25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION
I suppose there are guns that are ‘too pretty to shoot’, but I’ve yet to find one. That idea to me is like a car ‘too nice to drive’. So, while it may seem like the K9 25th Anniversary Edition was made to be a collector’s safe queen, I don’t think that’s what the folks at Kahr really had in mind. At least, it didn’t seem that way when I started putting rounds through it. Prior to shooting it, I had been admiring the finish and the engraving, and all the little extra details that adorn the pistol, but from the moment I first pulled the trigger, it became all about shooting. It became much less about pretty stuff, and all about sights, trigger, and ergonomics.
The Kahr PM9 has been a primary carry gun for me for many years, and I really like the feel of the triggers that Kahr puts in their pistols. They are somewhat unique among small handguns; in that, they employ a long stroke and moderately heavy pull rather than other mechanical safeties such as in-trigger-levers or grip safeties. It is also important to remember that the K9 was designed in an era when the double-action revolver was still a viable carry option for a great many people, both civilian and law enforcement.
Mimicking that long stroke was very intuitive for the shooter, and the Kahr trigger is far smoother and lighter. There is also the advantage of a smooth face, as opposed to the often-uncomfortable safety blade most striker-fired guns use. Kahr publishes the trigger weight to be 7 lbs., but I measured it at 6 lbs. 3 oz. using the Lyman digital scale. Reset is a moot point – like a DA revolver, you just let all the way back out. A final word on the trigger from me is that it is lighter than expected and silky smooth.
Ergonomics of the Kahr K9 is very good for such a small handgun. The gun is tall enough (4 ½”) to accommodate all four of my fingers (your mileage may vary if you have ape hands) and there is just enough grip tang to wedge the web of my hand into for a snug, firm grasp. Although the trigger is set pretty far forward, it is easily reached with good finger pad placement. The frame of the gun has ample real estate for my preferred ‘thumbs forward’ grip style, with a natural index point in front of the slide stop lever. That lever functions very well in both directions – something I am a bit picky about. It is easy to engage the stop and lock the slide open without altering your grip, using an upward swipe with the thumb – and equally easy to release it with the thumb to load a round into the chamber. It did take a couple of cycles of the gun to get the stiffness out, and after that, it was a breeze every time. Another temporary hitch was the extended 8-round magazine, which locked the slide open prematurely with a single round remaining, on the first two times it was used. Some visual inspection didn’t yield any clues, so I pressed on – and it didn’t occur again in another dozen uses. Chalk that up to stiffness and break-in. The magazine release is small but easily reached without changing the strong hand grip, and is easy to operate. Magazines dropped free with some energy each and every time.
The sights are the third piece in the trifecta of key criteria for shooting, and these did not disappoint at all. Kahr chose to top off the K9 25th Anniversary gun with a set of TruGlo® sights, which provide a great daytime sight picture as well as a full darkness sight picture via tritium-powered dots. The front sight contains the tritium vile in the center dot, surrounded by a bright white ring, which is easy to pick up quickly. This front sight rests in the notch of a very good rear sight that contains two tritium dots set into black rings inside a serrated black sight. This keeps the eye focused on the front sight while still providing full darkness capability and daytime anti-glare. The rear sight is also cut to provide a tactical edge so that the slide can be racked via one-hand use when necessary.
I put several different types of 9mm ammo through the K9 during testing – everything from budget-minded range ammo like Magtech and Federal American Eagle, to top-shelf defensive stuff from SIG, Speer, and Hornady +P Critical Duty. The pistol handled everything I fed it, hundreds of rounds in all, and shot very consistently at all distances – albeit slightly to the left. A simple rear sight adjustment would resolve that. I was able to empty all three magazines into a 7-yard group off-hand with a full spread of only 2 ½”. Recoil was managed extremely well by this little K9. Very often, the tradeoff for concealability is punishing recoil, but Kahr has engineered this gun to shoot flat, even with the hot stuff. This is usually accomplished by a strong recoil spring, which can mean trouble with lighter loads by short cycling the already short-cycle slide stroke, but even when I snuck in a few of my ultra-light competition loads, the gun ran just fine.
Sights came right back on target after every shot, allowing for quick follow-up shots. From a more formal rested position, I tested six different loads – all with very impressive results. What was most impressive was that all of the groups appeared in the same area of the target relative to the aim point. That degree of consistency across a mix of ammo is better than I’ve seen in some time.
JUST MY OPINION
The Kahr K9 played a significant role in defining the concealed carry gun of today and remains as relevant now as it was when it was introduced 25 years ago. Celebrating that longevity with this special edition model was not just a great idea – but perfectly executed. If you have a vintage K9, this special model might appeal to your sense of nostalgia, or perhaps even be a fun way to ‘trade up’. If you have never owned a K9, this is very likely the best way to join that club. And if you just want to be the guy who buys the collectible piece brand new, instead of years later after the price has gone up – that’s a good reason too. For me, it is the combination of the excellent aesthetics and extra touches that Kahr designed onto this gun, and the fact that it is a completely legitimate carry option and a heck of a shooter. The folks at Kahr Arms did a great job of combining what the collector and brand aficionado would want with what the dedicated shooter would want. It is equally at home in the display case, or in the high-quality 1791 holster included with it – on your hip at the range, or under a cover garment protecting your family. When working with a review gun, I usually find myself focusing on one or two key questions that I try and answer in the course of the testing and writing… but sometimes I just get fixated on a really dumb thought like, “how long did it take the marketing folks to decide on Sniper Grey versus Sniper Gray?”.