There will always be, I suppose, a debate as to which is the best self-defense gun–a snubnose revolver or a compact semiauto. Both have their virtues, but the autos seem to be gaining.

A prime example is the new PM9193 from Kahr Arms that, as CEO Justin Moon is quick to point out, “is made in America by Americans” in Worcester, Massachusetts. In Kahr model lexicon, “PM” stands for polymer frame, “919” indicates a 9mm (with external safety and loaded-chamber indicator), and the “3” means a three-inch barrel.

With its petite size and smooth contours, the PM9193 is a prime candidate for concealed carry. The gun’s single-stack magazine makes for a delightfully slim package less than an inch thick, and with its 9mm chambering the PM9193 is truly a pocket powerhouse.

The PM9193 has features that are both innovative and functional. The action is a true DAO (double-action only). When the trigger is pulled, the trigger cam unlocks the passive safety, finishes cocking the striker and actuates the cocking cam, which ultimately releases the striker to fire the pistol. The trigger pull is very smooth and light at six pounds; it feels like a slick double-action revolver trigger–this is a good thing. However, there is no second-strike capability; you have to cycle the slide to recock the striker if you experience a misfire.

Another interesting feature is what Kahr calls its “offset barrel.” Actually, it’s the lug on the bottom of the barrel that is set slightly to one side, allowing the trigger mechanism to be placed beside the barrel lug rather than beneath it. This raises the shooter’s grip closer to the centerline of the bore, which, along with the ergonomically textured polymer frame, reduces perceived recoil and makes the gun easy to control. The barrel has no bushing up front and mates directly with the slide. The rifling is polygonal with a 1:10 twist. The patented extractor is self-cleaning because powder fouling is shuttled away from the extractor with each shot. Also, the slide limits the movement of the extractor, which just about eliminates failures to extract.

The PM9193 has an internal safety and an external safety lever mounted on the frame. When the lever is up, the safety is off and a red dot is exposed, indicating that the pistol is ready to fire. With the safety lever down, it is on Safe, a cam on the lever disconnects the trigger bar from the cocking cam and pulling the trigger cannot fire the gun. The PM9193 also has a loaded-chamber indicator built into the top of the slide. When a round is in the chamber, this lever is pushed up and the shooter can easily feel it–without taking his eyes off the threat. The rear sight is drift-adjustable for windage, and several sight configurations are available (in my tests, the pistol shot fine, just a bit low).

Compact pistols can sometimes be tough to hang on to, but the PM9193 fit my medium-size hands perfectly and I had no trouble controlling the gun on multi-shot strings with the potent defense loads tested.

Virtually all sharp edges have been tastefully contoured, and slipping the little gun into and out of your pocket is as natural as breathing. The slide has generously spaced cocking serrations for ease of operation, and the recoil spring was not so strong that racking the slide was difficult. Overall fit and finish of the PM9193, incidentally, is excellent.

Since the gun’s obvious purpose is personal protection, I rounded up a representative assortment of modern-day hi-tech 9mm ammo and headed for the range. Thanks to “global warming,” I got to test the PM9193 at a balmy 13 degrees (empties were a bit hard to find in the snow). I shot the pistol at 10 yards and was very impressed with its controllability, accuracy and reliability. Nary a round failed to chamber, fire or eject in the dozens of test rounds sent downrange (the results are shown in the accompanying table).

The overall average of all groups was an impressive 2.52 inches–well within “minute of bad guy.” As Kahr correctly points out in the manual that accompanies the PM9193, some guns like some types of ammo better than others, and that was the case here. Thus it is prudent to test several types of ammo before you choose a defense load.

The velocities of the test loads were impressive, despite the pistol’s three-inch barrel. Velocities ran from a sizzling 1,018 fps with Federal’s 115-grain Hi-Shok JHP to 865 fps with Winchester’s new PDX1 Bonded 147-grain JHP. Hornady’s 115-grain FTX Critical Defense load checked in at 995 fps, and the velocity of Federal’s 124-grain Hydra-Shok was 968 fps.

All of these loads hit dead-on for windage, but the point of impact was about four inches low. Recoil was very mild and would not hinder good shooting with the Kahr. Center-mass hits at powder-burn range were easy.

The PM9193’s combination of reliability and accuracy, ultra-compact size and excellent ergonomics make it a prime candidate for those social situations where you have to get up close and personal.

Just cycling along The PM9193 shot very well with several high-performance 9mm loads. Functioning was 100 percent with everything.

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