Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Kahr TP9 Review


I purchased a Kahr TP9 with Novak night sights (TP9093-NOVAK) about a month ago, and after putting about 400 rounds through it, I have to say that this is a fantastic gun. NOTE (6/2011): Kahr has changed the TP9 since this review was published, so check the updates at the end to see changes.

First some background information. I first got the idea of purchasing a TP9 after fiddling around with my Kahr P9 (KP9093). I bought the P9 about four years ago because I needed a concealable gun that I could carry for those occasions where I had to have my shirt tucked in without having a sweater or jacket on. The P9 seemed to be a good choice due to its combination of firepower and size, particularly its thinness of just 0.90" slide width.

My method of carry was to use a Thunderwear holster in an unorthodox fashion. Instead of the normal method of placing the Thunderwear so that it hangs between your legs (which feels too uncomfortable with the gun resting on my private parts), I shift the Thunderwear so that it is in line with my left leg. I also position it a tiny bit lower on my leg so that I can sit comfortably. All I have to do to draw the gun is to suck in my gut, stick my hand in my pants and grab the P9. The only time drawing is problematic is when I am sitting up straight, but this is alleviated by shifting to a slouched sitting position. I think this is a small price to pay for the very good concealability the Thunderwear affords.

Ported Barrel
In order to mitigate felt recoil and muzzle flip from the lightweight P9, I installed a 4" ported barrel that Kahr sells, and a Harrt's recoil reducer (which is unfortunately no longer being produced). This helped a great deal when firing rapidly. The P9 shot well, but I began to want to replace the P9 with another Kahr due to the following reasons.
  1. I wanted to get a Kahr with a longer sight radius in order to shoot better groups. I also wanted to squeeze some extra speed out of a longer barrel (the extra 0.5" on the ported barrel doesn't increase velocity).
  2. There's a bit of horizontal play between the slide and the frame of the P9. I doubt this has any effect on accuracy at 7 yards, but it annoys me.
  3. When I dry fire the P9, I can see the front sight jerk to the right a bit when the trigger is pulled fully to the rear. I never see this on any other handgun I own, so I know I'm not using improper technique. I think that this occurs due to the heaviness in the trigger prior to letoff, and then the very long overtravel after reaching the trigger letoff. This also does not affect accuracy, as my groups are not veering to the right at all. The bullets are probably exiting the barrel by the time the trigger fully reaches the rear. Still, this also annoys me.
  4. Although I really like the bar-dot sights on the P9, I wanted to get tritium night sights.
My first thought was to send the P9 to Cylinder & Slide for a trigger job, night sight installation, and installation of a Bar-Sto barrel. However, I heard that they have a very long backorder, and that the wait could be up to a year. I didn't call C&S to verify this, because I had already just decided that it probably wasn't worth the cost. My second consideration was to get a T9 with Novak night sights (KT4043-NOVAK). I would have loved to get the heavier Kahr T9 to help with recoil and muzzle flip, but the longer grip and thicker grip panels would have adversely affected concealability in my Thunderwear setup. It was then that I saw a TP9 with Novak night sights in the counter at Shooter's Paradise (now closed) in Woodbridge, VA. Now, onto the review.

I made sure first of all that the TP9 had minimal horizontal slide/frame movement, and that I didn't encounter the dry fire jerking that I described above. After I verified the TP9 was free of these conditions, I bought it for $650.
    P9 with Clipdraw
    IWB with Clipdraw
    The TP9 is essentially the same as the P9, except that is has a 4" barrel as opposed to the 3.5" barrel on the P9. The thin grip (0.9") fits my smaller hands perfectly. The front sight is 0.140" wide and the rear sight notch is 0.150" wide according to my Lyman Dial Calipers. The white outlines around the tritium capsules look painted on. I prefer the white inserts that Meprolight uses, but the Novak sights are adequate. Using my Lyman Electronic Digital Trigger Pull Gauge, the trigger weight averages to 6.5 lbs. and is smoother that the P9 (the P9 gets very heavy right before letoff, whereas the TP9 is more uniform). The trigger overtravel is noticeably less than the P9, and the reset is somewhat long. As there are no manual safeties, the trigger pull is long, but smooth. The trigger pull feels similar to a double action revolver trigger, but lighter. The TP9 comes with one 7 round and one 8 round with extension magazine. I use the Thunderwear setup as described above, but have also attached a Universal Clipdraw on the TP9 for occasional IWB carry without the Thunderwear. Here's my review of the Clipdraw.

    Shooting Impressions
    After cleaning with Break-Free CLP, and then lubing with Wilson Combat Ultima-Lube oil and grease, I took the TP9 (along with the P9 for comparison) to the range to break it in. The Kahr manual recommends a 200 round break in period. I ended up shooting about 400 rounds through the TP9 using 115 gr. Winchester White Box (USA9MMVP), 115 gr. Federal American Eagle (AE9DP), 115 gr. +P Corbon DPX (DPX09115-20), and 127 gr. +P+ Winchester Ranger (RA9TA) ammo. I experienced one failure to feed on the second magazine (WWB), but then experienced no other problems whatsoever. I think this is typical, as my P9 had about a dozen FTFs during its 200 round break in period, but no other problems afterward. For the first 100 round or so I was a bit underwhelmed, as the recoil and muzzle flip were noticeably greater than my P9 with ported barrel and Harrt's recoil reducer (although still relatively low). I could definitely shoot a lot faster with the P9. However, I got better groups (< 1.5" @ 7 yards offhand) with the TP9 than on the P9. After the first 100 rounds, I got accustomed the feel of the TP9, and noticed that the front sight went right back into the rear sight notch exactly after each shot. I also learned to adjust my grip as high as possible so that the rearmost part of the frame is sticking into, and not over, the web of my hand. With practice and a higher grip, the TP9's recoil and muzzle flip became very controllable even for fast firing. I am now very pleased with my TP9 purchase and have lost the desire to continue shooting and carrying my P9 for the time being.

    Further Observations
    One thing I noticed was that after extensively firing the TP9, the horizontal slide/frame movement on the TP9 became even greater than on the P9, even though it had almost none when I bought it. Paradoxically, the accuracy does not seem to be degraded at all. I think that because the horizontal movement is located only in the front, this does not adversely affect lockup of the barrel to the slide. I think I might still purchase a T9 or K9 in the future. I really like the feel of heavy guns, and although they are a good deal thicker, I've never actually tried to place one in my Thunderwear to see how much can or can't be seen. The TP9 is now my go-to gun that I carry most often when carrying concealed. My TP9 made such a good impression on me that I definitely want more of what Kahr has to offer.

    • Very thin and concealable
    • 4" barrel for more velocity than the P9
    • Smooth, long trigger
    • Lightweight but very controllable
    • Accurate
    • Long trigger reset
    • Magazines do not drop free
    • Would be better with a bit less trigger overtravel

    Rating: **** ½

    Update 6/2011
    Upon checking Kahr's website, I noticed that Kahr has changed the TP9 to now have a longer grip (similar in length to the T9) that only uses the 8 round magazines without the grip extension. The model number seems to be unchanged (TP9093-NOVAK). The dust cover is also longer than before. The TP9 that I have circa 2005 has a grip length that is identical to the P9 (4.5" height). The new TP9 has a listed height of 5.08", similar to the T9 height of 4.95". I'm not sure I like this change, as having a shorter grip is better for concealment, and you can still use the 8 round w/ extension magazines with a shorter grip.The only benefits I can think of for the longer grip is a cleaner look (you don't need to use the 8 round with extensions magazines) and maybe marginally less recoil and muzzle flip. Perhaps the extended dust cover helps keep the slide rails cleaner as well. Or perhaps this gun is geared towards people wearing thick gloves or those with giant hands. I think due the longer grip I would knock off ½ a star from my rating for this new model (due to less concealability), but can't say for sure without testing the new model. Here are some pictures that help illustrate the changes.

    My TP9-NOVAK circa 2005 (notice the short P9 style grip and shorter dust cover)
    New TP9-NOVAK (longer dust cover, and longer grip holds 8 rounds in mag with no extension)

    My TP9 came with one 7 round magazine and one 8 round magazine with extension. The new TP9 only uses an 8 round magazine with no extension.

    7 round mag
    8 rnd mag w/extension
    New TP9 8 round mag

    Cylinder & Slide is now reporting only a 1 - 2 month backlog with a turnaround of about 8 weeks on custom gunsmithing work. I'm now considering getting the barrel re-crowned with an 11° crown, modifying the frame to allow magazines to drop free, and getting a trigger job (although the trigger is pretty good as is). Robar also has some gunsmithing options for Kahrs as well.

    Crimson Trace now has a trigger guard mounted laser sight (Laserguard LG-437) that fits the TP9. A limitation of this style of laser is that there's no way of selectively turning the laser off other than loosening the grip of your middle finger on the pressure pad (impractical when shooting) or removing the unit all together. Still, I might get one. I'm sure there are a bunch of arguments for and against use of lasers in various shooting situations, but at the very least it may be helpful as a training aid.

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