Editor’s note: This review was originally published in January 2009. Since then, this handgun has had over 2,500 rounds put through it. There has been no measurable loss of accuracy nor any noticeable change in the finish. We repost this review as the weapon continues to perform as expected.
Okay, I admit it: I am a prejudiced person. I LIKE my guns to have BIG holes at the end of the barrel where the bullets come out. It probably has something to do with my first issue weapon being a 1911 pistol thanks to Uncle Sam’s Army MP Corps. The down side of that big hole is the usually attributed weight, size and limited capacity of the associated pistol. For certain it’s a challenge to find a compact, comfortable, easy to carry, easy to conceal weapon in .45ACP. Enter the Kahr CW4543 in .45ACP. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it when I first got it, but it’s grown on me. Here’s why.
First, you need to understand that this was my first experience with any Kahr weapon. Sure, I had handled them at various shows but I’d never had one in my possession to field strip, reassemble, shoot… we all know that’s far different from handling it at a gun show and thinking, “Yeah; it feels good.” The feel of an unloaded weapon in your hand at a gun show is a far cry different from a loaded one you’re shooting at a combat silhuette from the seven yard line.
Let’s start off with some basic information about this particular weapon, the Kahr CW4543. It is a polymer framed, single stack, .45ACP caliber weapon with a capacity of 6+1 (6 in the magazine plus 1 in the chamber when carried “street ready”). It has a firing pin block which Kahr calls a “passive striker block” (because their design calls the firing pin the striker). That’s the only safety on the weapon which makes it just as safe as every revolver made. Overall length is 6.32″ with a maximum height of 4.8″. The slide, which is the widest part of the weapon, is 1.01″ wide. Those measurements are straight off Kahr’s website but were all independently confirmed by my own measurements. To give you a more visual comparison, the CW4543 is shown here with my full-size government model 1911. Bear in mind as you look at that, the Kahr carries ONE less round of .45ACP in an obviously more concealable package. As a matter of curiosity I also did a comparison with my wife’s Beretta Model 84, 380ACP. After all, that’s the smallest pistol we have in the safe and I consider it the most concealable. That photo is shown just below the .45 comparison photo. The Beretta 84 is also a single stack weapon holding 8+1 of .380ACP. Take a look at the photo and ask yourself this: given the size comparison, would you rather carry 7 rounds of .45ACP or 9 rounds of .380ACP?
The barrel length on the CW4543 is given as 3.64 inches with a 1-in-16.38″ right hand twist to the rifling. That 3.64 inches starts at the back of the chamber so if you take that chamber length out the barrel actually measures out at about 2.5″, plus or minus a couple hundredths of an inch. When I did that measurement my first thought was, “Almost the same barrel length as a .38 snubby but with 7 rounds of .45 instead of 5 or 6 rounds of .38.”
The matte finish stainless steel slide is fitted with dot-over-bar type sights. The white front dot is easy enough to see unless it is DARK, and the rear sight, with its white bar (post) is drift adjustable for windage. They function well enough and are easy to see. The rear sight was centered in the slide when I received the weapon and I didn’t find any need to move it. Point-of-aim / point-of-impact relationship was good straight out of the box. Bear in mind that when I say “good” I’m judging this based on the weapon’s caliber, barrel length and intended purpose. It’s not a competition gun. At seven yards I had no problem keeping my shots inside the X- and 10- rings on a B27 with slow aimed fire. When I sped up the speed of my shots I had no trouble keeping them tight, though a few did stray into the 9-ring. For a weapon purpose built to be concealable and defensive, that’s plenty accurate.
- As with all weapons, first you make sure the weapon is unloaded; no magazine in the well; no round in the chamber. Check once. Check twice. Check a third time. No magazine. No rounds. Empty weapon.
- Pull the slide back until the take-down indicator lines, notched into the left side of the slide and frame, are lined up. While holding the slide in that position (which is easy enough to do with one hand) push the slide stop out from right to left – just like you would with a 1911.
- With the slide stop removed, push the slide assembly off the front of the frame, pulling the trigger as you do.
- Remove the recoil spring assembly.
- Remove the barrel.
You’re done. Reassembly is exactly opposite.
The weapon was quite comfortable in my hand. The polymer frame has just enough room for the single stack magazine and not a lot of “fluff” extra built in. The checkering / texture that is molded in provide a pretty secure grip, even with gloves. I didn’t test it wet but it seems sufficient to the task. Immediately upon receiving the weapon, after field stripping it and wiping it out, I went onto the range with it. I had ordered two extra magazines because the weapon is only delivered with one, and I knew my thumbs would be sore enough as I intended to fire 250 rounds through it that first day. As a matter of interest, although the weapon comes with a six-round magazine and spares can be purchased, Kahr also makes available seven round magazines that have a finger extension for those of you with bigger hands. (The spec sheet can be downloaded here) Kahr straight out advises you to shoot 200 rounds through the weapon to break it in before using it for defensive carry. I admire them for being so forthright and their 200 round break in was what drove me to the 250 rounds I would fire. I didn’t figure I’d get any serious reportable results until the 201st round, given their admonition. Given their warning I was pretty surprised at the performance I did get in the first 100 rounds, much less the next 150.
My first fifty rounds were fired with the intent of simply breaking in the weapon. In that first fifty rounds I had one stoppage that was a failure to fully eject. The empty brass was extracted but didn’t clear the ejection port. It wasn’t a stove pipe but was sitting canted with the brass base still against the breach face while the brass mouth was split in and out of the ejection port. Clearing it meant pulling and holding the slide back while canting the gun and shaking it to let gravity take the spent brass out. I paid attention and this happened one other time between rounds 51 & 100, and it occurred while I was rapid firing with an intentionally lose wrist. Through the remainder of the firing, I kept a firmer hold and experienced no other failures to eject.
Recoil was quite manageable and that surprised me a bit given the diminuitive size of the weapon. In fact, the only discomfort I experienced was a blister on my thumb knuckle that resulted from the left rear corner of the frame rocking back and forth on it with every shot. The amount of clearance between the web of my hand and the bottom of the slide surprised me. I thought I’d have a harder time with the arch of recoil but I didn’t. The gun was quite pleasant to shoot. The trigger pull was quite smooth straight out of the box but I don’t have the tools to measure the pull weight.
The online MSRP is $485 (down from $606 since original posting and delivered with ONE magazine) and that is not over-priced for this weapon.
All in all, while I started out a doubting Thomas, I didn’t finish that way. The weapon has proven reliable, sufficiently accurate given its size and intended purpose, and comfortable. If you’re in the market for a concealed carry .45ACP, I suggest you check it out.
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