The Kahr CW4543, a spare magazine, a knife and a light - the author's every day carry.
Photo credit: Frank Borelli
Light, comfortable & convenient, but still packing 7 rounds of .45ACP power.
Photo credit: Kahr Arms
Way back in January 2009 I posted my first review of the Kahr CW4543 compact .45ACP pistol. I was – and continue to be – duly impressed with the weapon and this report/review is the result of having reached the milestone of firing 5,000 rounds through it. Just seven months ago I did a “past 2,500 round report,” and then I looked back and realized I’d missed several range days in my addition. The weapon has now had about 5,200 rounds through it and as actually well past 4,000 when I republished the original review last January.
As I look back at that time I feel like it shouldn’t have taken me that long to put that many rounds through it, but if I’m honest with myself I ENJOY shooting my 1911 more. The other side of that particular coin is that the Kahr CW4543 is FAR more comfortable to carry day in and day out.
Let’s review the basics about the weapon and then I’ll further report on the shooting experience(s).
The Kahr CW4543 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.
Field stripping the Kahr CW4543 for maintenance is fairly easy.
- 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.
For the past 4+ years now, this Kahr CW4543 has been my Every Day Carry pistol of choice. It is comfortable to carry, relatively compact and lightweight. Yes, I’m very aware of the limited capacity of 6+1 but I make two arguments regarding that capacity limit: first, if I carry the significantly larger and much heavier 1911, I only get an additional two rounds (8+1) in the weapon and an additional two rounds in a spare magazine. Yes, four rounds could make the difference in a gunfight, but so could carrying a 17 round 9mm. We all make choices and trade-offs and mine was to carry a weapon in a caliber I like and believe in, in a size and capacity that is comfortable enough to carry everywhere every day. Second, I remember the days of carrying a Smith & Wesson Chief’s Special 5-shot .38 with a single speed strip for reload. My current Every Day Carry (EDC) is better than that.
Most of the time I carry the Kahr .45 in an Askins belt slide holster from BLACKHAWK. No, they don’t make one specifically for the Kahr but the weapon fits just fine in the one they make for 1911s. I most often carry my spare magazine in a single-stack CQC mag pouch, also from BLACKHAWK. During the colder months when I wear long pants (and therefore have more pockets) I sometimes carry two spare magazines with the 2nd one being in a pocket.
I have three magazines total for the weapon. During early function testing I identified an ejection problem that only occurred with one of the magazines, and even then, only on the last round. I have never bothered replacing the magazine or trying to identify what causes the malfunction. Instead, I simply marked the magazine and make sure that, when I’m carrying both spare magazines, that marked one is my LAST magazine used. I figure, if I’ve fired my last round, then does it matter if the extracted brass doesn’t clear the ejection port? I’ve got no more rounds to fire at that point anyway so there’d be no need to clear the jam.
On the range the weapon still performs well. With its 3.64” barrel, even from 25 yards, I’ve never had a problem keeping all the rounds well inside the 8-ring on a B27 target. Usually they’re all within, or darn close to, the 9-ring. When I’m shooting for speed instead of accuracy (a happy balance we all seek) I can still keep the shots inside the 8-ring with no issues.
Across the 5K+ rounds I’ve fired, I’ve shot every type of ammo except Blazer and Wolf. I’ve shot ammo from every other major manufacturer of .45ACP ammo. I’ve shot semi-jacketed hollow point ammo, full metal jacket ammo, semi-jacketed soft point, etc. The only malfunction I’ve experienced on the range is that cited above: the failure to eject the spent brass from the last round in that one magazine.
As a final footnote, I’ve recently accepted a challenge from a friend of mine to build and test a survival vest on a three day two night weekend outing. All I’m allowed to take with me is what I can carry in or on the vest and my pants pockets. The Kahr CW4543 will be my “survival” weapon for that weekend, obviously not meant for hunting but purely carried for defensive purposes. After I’ve survived that weekend, I’ll give you all an update on how that goes.