The pistol Othniel Askew produced from the scant concealment of his light summer suit to kill Councilman James Davis was a Kahr MK-40 semiautomatic “pocket rocket” designed and manufactured by the son of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon to be at once “super-compact” and super lethal.
“It’s a unique design,” a spokesman for Kahr Arms of Blauvelt, Rockland County, said Friday. “It’s carved out its own niche.”
The “m” of MK-40 stands for “micro,” as this New York company’s gun measures only 5.35 inches. The “40” stands for .40 caliber, a big bullet usually fired by a much larger weapon that an ex-cop such as Davis might have spotted Askew carrying as they walked and talked before the shooting.
By his own account, 33-year-old Kook Jin (Justin) Moon was inspired to design little pocket rockets by his frustration more than a decade ago when he was that rare teen with a state pistol permit.
This scion of a self-proclaimed messiah did not want to go around with some cheap Saturday night special that was easily concealable but fired only a piddling .22- or .25-caliber slug. He shared the passion in the street for the more lethal 9-mm. The problem was size.
“I had been licensed to carry in New York State since I was 18 and had looked for an ultra-compact 9-mm. pistol,” Justin later told American Handgunner magazine. “To my chagrin, I could not find a pistol with the quality of construction and features in design which I felt were appropriate for a carry gun. Therefore, I decided to design an ultra-compact 9-mm. pistol that I could carry.”
Young Justin was about to begin his final year at Harvard University when he set to work on a concept that would eventually produce the weapon that brought murder to our City Hall.
“I spent the summer and much of my senior year designing the mechanical layout of the pistol and prototyping various design concepts,” he told Handgunner. “By the time I graduated, I had pretty much solved all the conceptual problems that hindered the manufacture of the pistol that I had in mind.”
One of Justin’s brothers was interested in music and their father reportedly arranged for that son to run the Manhattan Center recording studio on E. 34th St. The father was just as ready to help Justin after he graduated magna cum laude, class of 1992.
The father’s numerous business interests include Saeilo manufacturing, which reportedly put $5 million into a new firearms subsidiary. The president, Justin Moon, decided to call the new company Kahr.
“I did not think that Saeilo would be a catchy name to put on my gun,” Justin said. “I wanted a name that was short, easy to remember and symbolic of the high quality of manufacture. … I wanted a name that sounded German.”
In 1995, Kahr began production of the Kahr K9, a 9-mm. pistol as small as your hand. The weapon got stellar reviews from the handgun magazines.
“A big surprise in a small package,” Guns & Ammo extolled.
Approved by NYPD
The NYPD approved the Kahr K9 as both an off-duty and undercover weapon. Some jokingly called the pistol “the Moonie gun,” but Justin insisted that neither his father nor the Unification Church controlled Kahr.
“I currently am the majority shareholder of Kahr and operate my business to provide high-quality firearms to the public and to make a profit,” he told Handgunner.
The company’s image was marred somewhat when a young man was killed on Christmas Eve with a K9 pilfered by a Kahr employee who was a convicted crackhead. Business boomed nonetheless, though Guns & Weapons did report that some enthusiasts hungered for a small package that carried an even bigger surprise.
“For those who like a gun with a ‘4’ in the caliber designation, keep an eye on Kahr Arms,” the magazine suggested. “You might just get your wish!”
In the summer of 1999, Kahr introduced the true pocket rocket, the .40-caliber but still supercompact MK-40.
“Absolute concealed power!” the company declared.
That clearly appealed to Othniel Askew when he walked into DS Guns in Sneads Ferry, N.C., on May 19, 2001. Askew had been in the Air Force, stationed at a base 90 minutes away in Goldsboro. He had just been discharged and he was headed home to New York, where the law prohibits carrying a gun without a permit, which is extremely difficult to obtain.
In Sneads Ferry, Askew had only to produce a North Carolina driver’s license and pass a computerized background check that could not access a sealed 1996 case in which he assaulted his lover with a hammer.
Askew could have gotten the same .40-caliber bang for much less of a buck, but size clearly mattered. He plunked down more than $600 of a serviceman’s savings to buy the super-compact Kahr MK-40.
Like any customer, Askew received a written assurance from the company that happened to be based in his home state.
“Each Kahr pistol is backed by Kahr Arms’ Limited Lifetime Warranty,” the company promises. “We stand by our product.”
Askew drove to Brooklyn in a car with North Carolina plates. He became obsessed with quickly securing political power such as Councilman Davis had obtained after years of hard work and struggle.
When political power proved not to be Askew’s simply for the asking, he reached for the absolute concealed power of his MK-40.
On Wednesday, Davis’ power as a councilman enabled Askew to enter City Hall without passing through the metal detector that would have picked up even a pocket rocket. Askew continued on past several cops with no worry his super-compact weapon would be seen.
When the moment came, the micro pistol produced by the messiah’s son from Harvard worked as guaranteed. The “m” in MK-40 could also stand for murder.