Kahr 45 ACP P45 & CW45 Semi-Automatic Pistols


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 15th, 2011


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Kahr CW45 (top) and P45 (bottom) 45 ACP semi-automatic pistols.



P45 comes with hard case, instructions, trigger lock, and two magazines.



CW45 comes with hard case, instructions, trigger lock, and one magazine.





Lettering styles on the slides are different.







Kahr Arms has been manufacturing unique and compact pistols for about eighteen years now. Kahr pistols are some of the best pistols currently made for the purpose of concealed carry.  Each Kahr is designed around the cartridge to be as slim and trim as possible, and the Kahr pistols, no matter the caliber, seem to fit the human hand very well. Even shooters with small hands can handle the Kahr, and they also feel good in my large mitts.  It seems to bother some folks that Kahr pistols cost more than some competitive weapons. However, quality costs money, and Kahr does not build their pistols to a price point. They build them to be the best that they can be. Since the first K9 Kahr that I handled many years ago, I have loved the feel of the Kahr in my hand. Even their 45 Auto pistols are slim and trim. Kahr now makes many pistols using polymer frames, which are lighter in weight, and that seems to be the most popular style of concealed carry pistols on the market today. Still, some potential buyers balk at the price of a Kahr 45, so in 2008, Kahr introduced a lower-priced version of their P45, called the CW45. There is a substantial price difference between the two pistols, so I thought that I would compare the two, and see if the P45 was worth the extra $199 retail price tag.

Externally, both pistols are very much alike. The external difference that is most notable are the sights. The P45 has sights that are dovetailed into the slide, while the front sight on the CW45 is pinned into place. That is not a big deal, as tritium sights are now available for both the P45 and the CW45. Also, while the frames are identical, the slide on the P45 is thinned and radiused at the top, compared to the more blockish profile of the CW45. However, for me anyway, the CW is easier to grasp to retract the slide, as there is almost twice as much serrated area onto which to get a good hold. Internally, the CW has conventional rifling in the barrel, while the P45 comes with a Lothar Walther match grade barrel, so potentially, it might be more accurate, and its style of rifling might give higher velocities, so we will chronograph several types of 45 ACP ammunition side by side in the two pistols. Finally, the P45 comes with two magazines, while the CW ships with only one.  Both pistols use identical six-round magazines, for a loaded capacity of seven rounds. An extra mag lists for 44 bucks, but CDNN has them for about ten dollars less.  The magazine difference whittles the price difference down to about $164, which is still quite a bit of difference in price between the two pistols. For some, that amount of money is no big deal, but for others, it would mean the difference between buying a Kahr, or settling for another brand. What I plan to do here (and I wrote this introduction before firing either of the two pistols), is to determine if the CW45 is a lesser pistol than the P45. From the factory, the P45 is available with more options, such as factory-installed night sights and a black slide, but those are extra cost options, so here, we will stick with comparing these two very similar pistols, and see just what, if anything, we give up by saving that hundred and sixty-four bucks. Therefore, I am going into this with an open mind, knowing that both are quality pistols, to determine if the CW45 can hold its own with the P45. 

Critical specifications are listed in the chart below. Weights are listed in ounces. Linear measurements are listed in inches. Trigger pulls are listed as pounds of pressure.  Height includes sights and magazine base.


  P45 CW45
Chambering 45 ACP 45 ACP
Weight with empty magazine 20.7 oz. 21.8 oz.
Trigger Pull 5.1 lbs. 5.0 lbs.
Barrel Length 3.64" 3.64"
Barrel Diameter 0.578" 0.578"
Rifling Polygonal RH 1 in 16.38" Conventional RH 1 in 16.38"
Overall Height 5.3" 5.3"
Overall Length 6.32" 6.32"
Slide Thickness 1.00" 1.00"
Grip Thickness 1.06" 1.06"
Trigger Reach 2.47" 2.47"
Magazine Capacity 6 rounds 6 rounds
Magazines Supplied 2 1

I tested for velocity with my chronograph set at a distance of twelve feet from the muzzle, and an air temperature of twenty-one degrees Fahrenheit. Velocity readings were taken at an elevation of approximately 541 feet above sea level.  Velocities are listed in the chart below, and are listed in feet-per-second (fps). FMJ is a full metal jacket bullet. JHP is a jacketed hollowpoint. DPX is an homogenous copper hollowpoint bullet. Glaser is a specialty pre-fragmented bullet inside a copper alloy jacket. PB is Pow’RBall. EPR and AF are high performance specialty bullets as loaded by Extreme Shock Ammunition. LWSC is a cast lead semi-wadcutter bullet. Bullet weights are listed in grains.

Ammunition Bullet Weight Velocity P45 Velocity CW45
Cor-Bon JHP 200 961 983
Cor-Bon JHP 165 1122 1129
Cor-Bon JHP 230 856 869
Cor-Bon DPX 185 1001 1007
Cor-Bon PB 165 1167 1171
Cor-Bon Glaser 145 1263 1295
Stryker FMJ 230 737 720
Buffalo Bore JHP 230 849 855
Buffalo Bore FMJ 230 851 876
Handload LSWC 200 945 953
Extreme Shock EPR 185 1134 1146
Extreme Shock AF 125 1374 1377
WCC 1911 Ball FMJ 230 767 787

Accuracy testing was done with the pistols rested hand-held on a Target Shooting Model 1500 pistol rest, at a distance of twenty-five yards.  I fired one pistol, then the other, using the same brand and lot of ammo, from the same box, to be as consistent as possible in my comparison of the accuracy of these two pistols. At this point, I will comment about the trigger on these Kahr pistols. The trigger pulls are delightfully smooth and light on both of these pistols, with pull weights measuring approximately five pounds, and again, they are as smooth as is mechanically possible. The slide pre-cocks the striker, then the trigger finishes cocking and releases the sear. Trigger travel is about three-eighths of an inch at the center of the trigger. The excellent trigger pulls make these Kahr pistols easier to shoot well than many competitive pistols.  Accuracy varied from the best with the Buffalo Bore 230 grain flat point full metal jacket which grouped under two inches at twenty-five yards, repeatedly, from both pistols. The handload did almost as well, with the other loads tested coming in between two and three and one-half inches at twenty-five yards. After firing many groups from the bench, I could not say that either of these pistols is any more accurate than the other. As can be seen in the chart above, velocities were also very close. I had expected that the polygonal rifling of the P45 would give slightly higher velocities, but the converse was true in this case, with the CW45 posting slightly higher velocities with almost every load tested.

Reliability was very good. Every load tried fed, fired, and ejected, but in the P45, I had trouble with the Buffalo Bore 230 grain ammo, as the slide would not go into battery without a nudge at the rear. The Buffalo Bore functioned perfectly in the CW45, so it appears that this particular P45 might have a tighter chamber than this CW45. This just proves that with ANY weapon that is to be carried for serious purposes, the chosen ammo should be thoroughly tested before carrying. All other ammo functioned flawlessly through the two Kahr pistols.  These two pistols are very close in all respects, with the P45 being 1.1 ounces lighter in weight on my scale, due to the machining of the slide.  However, that is not enough weight to make a difference to me, and I am of the opinion that choosing between these two pistols, I would definitely go with the lower-priced CW45. It is every bit as smooth, as accurate, and as reliable as the more expensive P45, and it is still a Kahr. The difference in price would buy a good set of tritium night sights, a box of ammo,  and two extra magazines.

Check out the entire line of Kahr pistols and accessories at www.kahr.com.

For the location of a Kahr dealer near you, click on the DEALER LOCATOR at www.lipseys.com.

To order either the P45 or CW45 online, go to www.galleryofguns.com.

Jeff Quinn

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P45 (left), CW45 (right).





P45 (top), CW45 (bottom).






P45 and CW45 magazines are identical.



Accuracy testing was done with the aid of the Target Shooting, Inc. Model 1500 pistol rest.