Anyone who has read my previous handgun reviews knows that I'm a fan of the .45ACP. The Government Model 1911 was my first duty weapon when I started my law enforcement career as an Army MP and has just always stayed at the top of my list. The Government Model 1911 was the most rugged gun I'd ever been exposed to until the Glocks came on strong in the late '80s. I soon fell in love with the Glock Model 36, single stack .45ACP. Now I've got a new handgun that I've learned to appreciate and I find myself in the debate: Glock 36? Or Kahr CW4543? Now there are generally two ways to approach this decision: subjectively or objectively.
Subjectively is purely based on how it feels to me.
Objectively is purely based on the measurable and reportable data available on each weapon.
I figured that it would be easier to get and evaluate the objective data first so here it is:
Capacity: G36 = 6+1 / CW45 = 6+1
Barrel Length: G36 = 3.78" / CW45 = 3.64"
Overall Length: G36 = 6.77" / CW45 = 6.32"
Height: G36 = 4.76" / CW45 = 4.8"
Width: G36 = 1.13" / CW45 = 1.01"
Weight: G36 = 20.11oz / CW45 = 19.7 oz
Looking at the info we find that the capacity is the same. The barrel on the Glock is slightly longer than that of the Kahr and that's also reflected in the overall length of the weapons: the Glock is slightly longer. But look at the numbers. The Glock barrel is about a tenth of an inch longer (.14") while the overall length is closer to a half inch (.45"). Tuck that away for now. Overall height is within 4/100 of an inch so it's not a deciding factor in any realistic way. If that .04" matters in your day I submit that you have too much stress in your life. The width of the Glock is .12" wider than the Kahr - both measurements based on slide width. The Glock - unloaded - also weighs more by about a half ounce. Again, if that half-ounce matters THAT much to you I don't envy you the blood pressure you must have.
So, as I looked over the measurements I felt that objectively the Kahr would be the winner based on shorter overall length, smaller width and lighter weight. However, the Glock could win on barrel length and overall height. Which measurements matter most? That is a subjective decision. To make the decision objective where these measurements are concerned we'd have to have a way of measuring the impact the differences have on accuracy and performance. Simply put, I'm not that good.
I've had both weapons on the range. From the 15 yard line, slow fire from a barricade supported position, I can reliably shoot groups of about two inches with both guns using 230 grain ball ammo. Every now and then I might get lucky and tighten a group up, but inevitably I'll also have a "called flyer" that has to be excluded from that group. Being realistic, combat accuracy really only requires four-to-six inch groups fired at the 25 yard line. Firing slow fire from a barricade supported position at the 25 I can keep all the rounds inside that four to six inch circle. Most of the time the groups are closer to three inches. The bottom line (for me) is that I can't measure the difference in performance for the weapons as I shoot them.
So, objectively I found that I couldn't make a clear determination. Even if I tried I found that I had to subjectively decide which measurements of the weapon mattered more to me and then make a selection based on that.
Hmmm... okay, so let me approach this subjectively. Accepting that they both fire the same round and have the same capacity, which one feels better in my hand? Here, the Kahr won. Its slimmer grip is more comfortable in my medium-size hands. Next question: which one feels better in my hand while shooting? This difference really wasn't measured until I got into about the 200 rounds-fired mark. Initially they are both quite comfortable to shoot. However, when I got up to that 200-round mark I found that the left rear corner of at the top of the Kahr backstrap had rubbed a blister onto the knuckle of my thumb. The Glock hasn't ever done that.
Does this matter in the selection of a defensive carry pistol? The answer would be no except that such a discomfort may end up reducing the amount of time a shooter spends training. To maintain shooting skill with a given firearm, rounds need to be sent downrange. Sure, I know folks who only shoot the minimum required each year by their state, agency or military service unit. Such folks often make me shake my head. If that's all they can afford then I can almost understand. But I do truly believe that if you're going to carry a weapon for self-defense then you should be on the range at least quarterly and preferably monthly. When you're shooting that much the blister caused by the Kahr (which may not happen to you depending on the size of your hands and your shooting methods) should form a callous pretty quickly. So, overall, does it matter much? Not in my world.
The conclusion that I came to - subjectively - based on my own personal perceptions, needs and skill level, was that I'd rather carry the Kahr CW4543. That said, I wouldn't be at all disappointed if I HAD to carry the Glock. Both are serviceable arms that are capable of putting big holes in bad people at reasonable combat distances... provided you do your part.