Review: Kahr Arms CT 380

   07.28.15

Review: Kahr Arms CT 380

I remember many years ago reading about some of the first Kahr Arms Double Action Only (DAO) pistols. At the time, they were only made in 9mm and came with an aluminum frame.

All the gun writers were singing the praises of the DAO trigger pull, that it was the Rolls Royce of DAO trigger pulls. In those days only a few semiauto handguns came with a DAO trigger pull, and they were all lacking–some were very long, some were really heavy, some were gritty, and some were just flat out junk. So I was skeptical about the claims made about the Kahr DAO trigger pull.

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The area of Oregon I then lived in only had one gun shop, and they didn’t really carry a large selection of handguns–mostly bolt action hunting rifles. It wasn’t until I moved to the wet side of Oregon that I saw my first Kahr 9mm DAO pistol. It was love as soon as it was placed in my hand and I pulled the DAO trigger. It was unbelievably buttery smooth–long, but VERY smooth. The gun went home with me that day.

Since first handling a Kahr DAO handgun, I’ve loved every one that has passed through my hands, bar none. I own several Kahrs in various calibers, and my favorite is the CW 45; it was a Christmas gift from my youngest daughter–6+1 rounds of .45ACP in a handy package that is easy to conceal. So far it has handled every type of .45ACP I’ve put through it, including some +P .45ACP loads. But enough about that gun. The Kahr under review today is their brand-new CT 380, their “budget” line of handguns. Despite the budget label and the price, there is nothing “budget” about this little pistol.

I’m not a person who believes all that much in the .380 ACP caliber as my first line of defense–instead, I believe the .380 ACP is best reserved as a back-up gun to my main gun, whatever it is I’m carrying that day. Being a writer, I carry a lot of different handguns. I actually do test them, for concealability and how well they function. The Kahr CT 380 holds 7+1 rounds of .380 ACP in the mag/chamber, and the trigger pull is DAO–again, that buttery smooth trigger pull that no one has yet to duplicate in my humble opinion.

Basic Features and Concealment

The CT 380 has a barrel that is 3″ long with conventional rifling. Some of the upper end Kahrs have a different barrel rifling, but I’ve never seen much, if any, difference in accuracy between the different rifling in the barrels. The gun is only 4.4″ in height and .75″ wide at the widest point, and it was a mere 11.44-ounces empty without the mag. Overall length is 5.52″.

The grips/frame is textured black polymer, with a drift adjustable rear sight with a white bar on it. The front sight has a white dot. Both sights are made out of polymer, and I’ve yet to have to adjust the rear sight on any Kahr I’ve tested–they are dead-on from the factory.

The slide is stainless steel, and the gun comes with one 7 round magazine. I’d prefer two mags, but coming with only mag brings the price down. I always have several spare mags for all of my semiauto handguns. All things considered, this is a pretty small .380 ACP handgun.

I did carry the CT 380 in an ankle holster, but it just felt too big and my pants leg didn’t cover the gun as much as I wanted to. I wear baggie cargo pants, but if you looked hard enough, you could spot a gun’s bulge around my ankle. So, I switched to a Blackhawk Products belt slide holster and the gun just fit perfectly. It rode high and tight against my body on my belt on the right side. With my covering garment, the gun couldn’t be spotted–nice!

Testing

I had a good selection of .380 ACP ammo on-hand for testing, and most of my shooting was done at 15-yards–a little at 25-yards. Keep in mind, this is a short-barreled pisto meant for up close and person self-defense. From Black Hills Ammunition, I had their 90-gr JHP and this is a great load–potent. From Buffalo Bore Ammunition I had their 100-gr FMJ-FN standard pressure load, their 90-gr JHP–again, their standard pressure load. I also had some of their +P fodder–80-gr Barnes TAC-XP and 95-gr FMJ-FN load–both were hot loads, to be sure. You knew you had a potent round.

Okay, the only negative thing I wanted to mention about the CT 380 is the very stiff/heavy recoil spring. It takes quite a bit of effort to draw the slide back in order to chamber a round. If you don’t have good hand and upper body strength, this gun may not be for you. There is some stiff resistance from the slide/recoil spring. However, the positive aspect of this is that felt recoil is a bit less than you’d expect from such a tiny handgun, and the heavy recoil spring was great for handling those +P loads.

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In all, I fired about 200 rounds over several range sessions, and I did not have a single malfunction–not even a hint of one–in all my shooting.

Overall winner in the accuracy department was the Buffalo Bore 100-gr FMJ-FN load, which would be my choice for self-defense. The JHP loads in .380 ACP aren’t known for very deep penetration, but the FMJ loads, especially with a Flat Nose bullet, will probably punch right through a human body.

While I liked the +P loadings from Buffalo Bore, I think they might be a bit too much in the recoil department for some shooters, and to be sure, your gun will take a beating.

At 15-yards, if I did my part, I could keep 5-shots inside of 3 1/2 inches–not bad, not bad at all. I did a little bit of shooting with the Black Hills, 90-gr JHP load out to 25-yards, and I was keeping my hits inside of 5-inches. This is outstanding accuracy from a little gun at that distance.

Whenever my wife carries her old Bersa .380 handgun, she prefers the Black Hills 90-gr JHP load, which seems to shoot very accurate in her Bersa, and she has used this load for years as her self-defense load of choice. However, most of her daily concealed carry is some kind of 9mm handgun. But once in a while, she likes to dig out her Bersa for some reason.

Conclusions

Full retail on the Kahr CT 380 is $419.00, but it can usually be found quite a bit cheaper if you shop around. If you want a small .380 ACP pistol as your daily concealed carry handgun, it would be tough to beat the CT 380. It’s small/compact, totally reliable, easy to shoot, and plenty accurate enough for your self-defense purposes.

I highly recommend getting at least one spare magazine from Kahr. If you have a malfunction with a semiauto handgun, it can usually be traced to either ammo or a magazine malfunction. So rip out that magazine that caused a malfunction, replace it with a new, fresh mag, and stay in the fight.

I don’t wear inside-the-waistband holsters–never did like ’em–but if you lean in that direction, then the CT 380 would be an excellent choice for concealed carry. Under an untucked t-shirt, the CT 380 wouldn’t be noticed. Many women carry in their purses. If you do and you want to carry with a round in the chamber, make sure you Kahr is in some kind of holster so that there aren’t any ADs with junk getting caught-up in the trigger. Or carry without a round in the chamber–not my suggestion as the gun isn’t ready to fire without first chambering a round.

Once again Kahr has a real winner with their new CT 380. It’s a high-quality and very well made little .380 that will serve you for many years to come.

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