The Kahr Firearms Group has outgrown the concealed-carry market. Kahr, you might remember, was one of the early leaders in concealed-carry handguns. The company’s founder, Justin Moon, had had trouble finding a gun that suited his needs. So he built one himself.
Now, according to a company representative who was presenting at a recent writer’s conference, Moon put up with some mocking from others in the firearm industry. Even when he found an outlet to sell it in 1994, the distributor told him, “Good luck with that.”
But, alas, no one could have foreseen then the trend toward concealed carry, and Kahr came along with the right product at the right time. The company pretty much was alone in the niche arena for a while, but today, concealed-carry options abound and that sector has become much more competitive.
In order to survive in a competitive market, you have to be flexible, and Moon was that. One business decision was to acquire Auto-Ordnance. Yes, the group that’s noted for the Thompson submachine gun, or Tommy gun. (With that, the first major project was to re-engineer the Tommy gun. That has been done and the results are positive.)
As Kahr has grown, though, one thing has remained the same, and that is its respect for our men and women in uniform—the military or law enforcement. And with that as the impetus, the Auto-Ordnance division undertook the challenge of coming up with a firearm to honor such heroes.
Auto-Ordnance partnered with Outlaw Ordnance to create a visually stunning four-model set of 1911s.
The first, called a Case-Hardened custom 1911, was fairly generic, when compared to the subsequent ones, but it laid the groundwork for the series. The goal was straightforward. The designers wanted to come up with a way to bring a classic gun to the next level without diminishing its history. The result was to devise a process whereby the steel comes in a unique pattern of colors ranging from tan to black. The swirls give the gun a finish that sets the gun apart, to be sure.
The second is called the Victory Girls custom 1911, offering a design that pays tribute to the women (think Rosie the Riveter) who stepped into plants across this great nation to carry on the manufacturing process while many men were overseas fighting. The slide is marked with “rivets” and an etching of Rosie flexing her arm. This effort has proven to reach a market greater than just that of collectors: women, who might have once been timid about firing a ,45 ACP, have taken the step up to a 1911 and are buying this model in droves.
The third in the series plays off the success of the Victory Girls and is called Fly Girls. Much like its sister model, the slide includes rivets, though the corollary designs are an etching of “Fly Girls” on one side and “1941-1947” on the other. The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) played a key support role in World War II, ferrying supplies in non-combat zones so that more male pilots were on hand to participate in dogfighting. More than 1,000 women did this and 38 died, even though they weren’t on the front lines.
The fourth in the series is the Squadron custom 1911, and its design harks back to the trend in which pilots often painted custom graphics on their planes to personalize them a bit. The Squadron 1911 includes a graphic of a shark’s mouth on the front of both sides of the slide, in homage to the P40 Warhawks of the World War II era.
Kahr isn’t marketing the four models as a set, yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a display case and do it yourself. It would definitely make a handsome set.
Outside of the 1911 realm, look for more designs to honor our fighting men and women in the future. The company is already producing the Vengeance, an M1 carbine with a wood stock that’s engraved to mark the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. With next year marking the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a complementary design is planned.