Coming from a company known for making pint-sized powerhouses, the new Kahr P380 takes downsizing the pocket pistol a step further.
Simply put, Kahr Arms has a sterling reputation for making extremely high-quality self-defense pistols. Beginning in 1994, the company began producing and offering all-steel pistols, later moving on to polymer-framed models and then downsized ultra-compact variants—all the while earning fans along the way.
Unlike other handgun manufacturers and their often expansive list of offerings and sometimes bloated catalogs, Kahr’s succinct line of pistols features an appealing sense of certitude and simplicity. These handguns are designed from the ground up as defensive-style pistols, chambered only in centerfire loadings suitable for self-defense use.
Also, all Kahr pistols share the same overall configuration and operation as semi-automatic, double-action-only pistols. Featuring minimal controls and no external safeties, Kahrs combine the simplicity of operation of a revolver with the slimness and higher capacity of a semiautomatic pistol.
Prior to 2009, purchasers of a Kahr pistol could select from models chambered in .45 ACP, .40 S&W or 9 mm Luger—all logical choices for pistols designed for self-defense use. However, for 2009, Kahr has a surprise for pocket pistol enthusiasts—the new P380 (KP3833) chambered for the .380 ACP cartridge.
Blast from the Past
So why a new pistol in this relatively old-fashioned cartridge? The .380 ACP is enjoying a new lease on life in the firearms community, with a host of new pistols chambered for the relatively diminutive cartridge. Propelling a 90- to 100-gr. projectile around 900 feet per second in high-quality defensive loadings, the .380 ACP is considered by many to be the minimum acceptable chambering for self-defense use as it offers performance comparable to the .38 Special.
The primary charm of the .380 ACP is that it can be chambered in diminutive packages while still offering acceptable power. In fact, the cartridge has a long history of being employed as a self-defense cartridge, with well-known examples such as the Walther PPK being chambered for it. However, the Kahr P380 takes a radically different tack than many of its predecessors.
Rather than employing a straight-blowback system of operation that relies on slide mass and spring pressure to keep the action closed until chamber pressure drops to safe levels, the Kahr P380 employs a Browning-style locked-breech system of delayed blowback.
The result is a pistol that does not have to rely on a heavy and bulky slide or excessive spring pressure for safe operation, allowing Kahr to size the pistol down to an extremely trim and slim package.
In fact, the P380 pistol itself weighs in at less than 10 ounces unloaded. The dimensions of the pistol match its feathery light weight, with an overall length of 4.9” and a short 2.5” Lothar Walther match-grade barrel. The overall height of the pistol is 3.9”, and its width is a slim 0.75”. In fact, even when compared to my Kahr PM9 9 mm Luger carry gun (which is by no means large itself), the P380 is downright miniscule.
Primary materials of the P380 are ideal for a pocket pistol intended to be carried day in and day out. The slide and barrel of the pistol are constructed of stainless steel to help resist the effects of sweat and moisture, and the frame of the pistol is of lightweight and durable black polymer.
The frame of the pistol features generous molded-in ribbing on the front and rear straps of the grip area, with a smoother stippled-style texture on its side panels. As with all Kahrs, the P380 is slim, trim and simple. Lacking an external safety, the slab-sided pistol’s only external controls consist of a grooved stainless steel slide release lever and a magazine release button located just to the rear of the trigger guard. Simple vertical cocking serrations are cut into the rear of the slide.
As it does not have an external safety, the P380 (as with all Kahrs) relies on its long, deliberate double-action-only trigger pull to prevent accidental discharges. In addition, the pistol features an internal passive striker block that is disengaged as the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. Total trigger arc is roughly ½”, and the pull on the test sample received was smooth and weighed in at 6¾ pounds. It is important to note that the pistol does not have a second-strike capability as the striker is partially cocked during cycling of the slide.
The low-profile steel sights on the P380 are quite good considering the tiny size of the pistol. The rear sight is drift adjustable and has a white bar below its notch. The front sight sports a white dot that is aligned above the rear sight’s bar.
Despite the small size of the P380, the pistol boasts a reasonably good 6+1 capacity. The pistol’s single-stack magazine is sturdily constructed of stainless steel with a matching stainless steel floorplate.
The magazine body features five witness holes on its sides. Two magazines are included with the pistol. Of note is the fact that the P380 does not feature a magazine safety, meaning the pistol can be fired when the magazine is removed (a feature that should appeal to many self-defense users).
For testing, I took the pistol out to the range with some Black Hills 90-gr. JHP .380 ACP ammunition. Once I was set up with my Caldwell Pistolero rest from MidwayUSA, I put the pistol through its paces at 15 yards. Accuracy proved to be quite good considering the tiny size of both the pistol and its sights.
Although there were some failures of the slide to go fully into battery at first, the owner’s manual explained that the tightly fitted pistol requires a break-in period of about 200 rounds. These malfunctions on the test pistol cleared up for me at around 100 fired rounds. All in all, I fired about 200 rounds through it. I also noted the fact that the pistol’s barrel has a polished feed ramp to help ensure reliable feeding of the hollow-point ammunition.
The handling characteristics of the pistol are quite good, considering its size. I was only able to fit two support fingers around the grip, with my pinky finger hanging off the bottom. However, this is to be expected with such a small handgun. Perceived recoil was noticeable, but not gratuitous.
To see how the pistol carried, I tried it out in a BlackHawk pocket holster and dropped it into my front pants pocket. Due to its small size and light weight, it proved to be a pleasure to carry all day.
For those looking for a high-quality pocket pistol light enough to carry every day but powerful enough to provide protection when needed, the Kahr Arms P380 should definitely fit the bill.
MODEL: P380 (KP3833)
MANUFACTURER: Kahr Arms
CHAMBERING: .380 ACP
OVERALL LENGTH: 4.9”
WEIGHT: pistol, 9.97 ounces; empty magazine, 1.3 ounces
ACCESSORIES: two magazines, hard plastic case, owner’s manual, gun lock
SHOOTING RESULTS 15 YARDS
Load Velocity Accuracy
Black Hills. 863 f.p.s. 2.23”
Accuracy results of five, five-shot groups fired at 15 yards using a MidwayUSA Caldwell Pistolero pistol rest. Velocity average of 10 shots measured 10 feet from the muzzle.
Abbreviations: f.ps. (feet per second),
JHP (jacketed hollow point).
For more information, please contact the following:
Kahr Arms: (Dept. SOF),
130 Goddard Memorial Drive,
Worcester, MA 01603;
(508) 795-3919; www.kahr.com
BlackHawk: (Dept. SOF),
6160 Commander Parkway,
Norfolk, VA 23502;
(800) 694-5263; www.blackhawk.com
Black Hills Ammunition:
(Dept. SOF), P.O. Box 3090,
Rapid City, SD 57709-3090;
(605) 348-5150; www.black-hills.com
WARNING AND DISCLAIMER: Any content in this publication, including technical data, reports of any activities, information, events and circumstances under controlled situations and under supervised control have not been tested nor approved nor were under the control of Soldier of Fortune Magazine. Reports are transmitted from independent sources to which SOF has neither supervision nor control. The data is transmitted for reporting events by the author. Soldier of Fortune Magazine, its agents, officers, consultants nor any other individual or entity reject any and all responsibility for any reporting in this publication. Any reports in this publication do not provide detail for comprehensive safety techniques, training techniques, training precautions that are absolutely essential for any covered or similar activity. The reader MUST not attempt any reported activity, technique or use of equipment based upon any reports in this publication. Comprehensive training, guidance and supervision is always necessary when engaging in any activity of which any report in this publication mentions or gives any reference to. The views of the authors do not represent the views of the Soldier of Fortune Magazine.