When Kimber announced they were entering the sub-compact 1911 market with a new pistol, I was a little surprised. There is already a large number of manufacturers offering sub-compact 1911-style pistols. I consider this a niche market and already saturated with decent small pistols that satisfy those who want a pocket-sized 9mm pistol with the look and feel of a 1911.
The Kimber Micro 9 came to market in 2016 and follows that path taken by a number of gun manufacturers in the past. The Colt Mustang is one memorable sub-compact 1911-style pistol as is the Springfield Armory 911. Both of these other pistols were discontinued several years ago. However, Colt has revived the Mustang in a new redesigned form.
On the outside, at a cursory glance, the Kimber Micro 9 does resemble a full-sized 1911 that seems to have shrunk. In truth, the resemblance is about the only thing that is remotely related to a full-sized 1911 pistol. Kimber has rethought the 1911 design to create a concealed carry pistol in a 1911 style that functions with the reliability of a modern pistol.
The Kimber Micro 9 At First Glance
There is not much middle ground among pistol shooters when it comes to 1911 pistols. For the most part, shooters either love them or hate them. I don’t find a lot of middle ground. Out of the box, those that love the look and feel of a 1911 pistol will immediately react positively to the Kimber Micro 9.
The rake on the grip is virtually identical to a government-issue model M1911. From the beaver tail to the slide lock and trigger, the Kimber Micro 9 looks like a 1911 that has been dipped in hot water and allowed to shrink. Even the thumb safety is there where it should be on the left side of the pistol.
The fit and finish of the Kimber Micro 9 as what you would expect to find on any Kimber product. The milling is above reproach. The parts fit together with precision. The finish is impeccable. Kimber offers the Micro 9 in a wide variety of models, finishes and variations on the theme. Somewhere in this huge style catalog, you should find the Kimber Micro 9 that fits your aesthetic requirements.
Getting Under the Skin of the Kimber Micro 9
Before I get to the actual range testing and shooting, I want to take a few minutes to get into the details of the design of the Kimber Micro 9. The look and feel of this pistol are all well and good, but the real meat of the matter is in the way the gun is put together and how it functions.
Many other sub-compact 1911-style pistols exhibited feed and operational problems because the manufacturer tried to simply downsize a full-sized 1911. Kimber took the 9mm cartridge and designed a sub-compact pistol and then wrapped in it a 1911-style package. On the inside, the Kimber Micro 9 features the latest in pistol engineering and design to produce a sub-compact pistol that performs flawlessly.
The Factory Specifications
For those with a technical interest, I like to start with the factory specifications for any pistol review and I will do so in this Kimber Micro 9 review as well. If you aren’t interested in the details of the Kimber Micro 9’s specifications, you can skip to the next section of this article. Among the standard features across the model line are:
- Height – 4.07 inches
- Length – 6.1 inches
- Width (Frame) – 1.06 inches
- Weight (Empty Magazine) – 15.6 ounces
- Barrel Length – 3.15 inches
- Barrel Twist (Left hand) – 16
- Barrel Material – Stainless Steel
- Frame Material – Aluminum
- Magazine Capacity – 7 rounds
- Sights – White Dots
- Sight Radius – 4.3 inches
- Trigger – Solid Aluminum
- Trigger Pull – 7.0 lbs. (approximate)
There are so many variations on the finishes offered by Kimber that I didn’t try to include those here. There are also special editions and some dealer editions that may be available to add to the confusion. For this article, I chose the Kimber Micro 9 Stainless Model.
The Obvious and Not-so-Obvious Differences
As you have guessed, under its skin, the Kimber Micro 9 is not really a 1911 at all despite its appearance. Kimber did their best to keep the styling true to the 1911 tradition but had to make some changes for a frame this small to ensure dependability and functionality. There are some obvious and not-so-obvious differences. Among these is the aluminum frame rather than steel.
Anyone familiar with standard 1911s knows the safety under the beaver tail. You won’t find a grip safety on the Kimber Micro 9. Kimber deleted this feature of a standard 1911 in favor of a true trigger safety. The safety lever at the rear of the frame is still included. In fact, Kimber makes a bilateral safety level standard issue.
The enhanced safety on the Micro 9 doesn’t lock the slide as it does on a full-sized 1911. This change makes the trigger safety possible and ensures that the safety level moves smoothly and clicks into position both on and off with a positive feel.
The ambidextrous safety lever is easily accessible from both sides of the frame. While it was comfortable and easy for me to operate, anyone with much larger hands could find it difficult to move the safety level with their thumb due to crowding on the rather short grip.
I am not a big fan of thumb safeties, but the Kimber Micro 9 does it right.
The Slide Stop
If you are familiar with a 1911 at all, you will find the slide stop on the Micro 9 in the usual place. The functionality is much the same as well. Pull the slide back and flip the slide stop up to hold the slide open. Push down on the slide stop lever to release the slide.
The slide stop is used to perform a takedown of the Micro 9 for cleaning and maintenance. The slide stop pin pushes out when the slide is in the proper position, allowing the slide and its component parts to slip off the frame.
Some people may have trouble getting the slide lock back out of the frame or back in the frame because of its smaller size and the tight tolerances Kimber machining produces. Several aftermarket tools are available that can help remove and realign the slide release.
The Slide and Barrel
Kimber chose aluminum for the slide of the Micro 9. This feature saves weight, making the Micro 9 one of the lightest all-metal sub-compact guns on the market. I will get to the sights in a few minutes. One thing you will miss on the slide of the Micro 9 is the barrel bushing that figured prominently in disassembling a 1911.
The slide is nicely contoured with no sharp edges. The serrations make moving the slide easily and the recoil spring tension is light enough that anyone should be able to handle charging the pistol and operating the slide.
The slide release is functional and well-sized. Kimber also incorporated a flared ejection port for enhanced functionality. Finishes on the slide vary from model to model. To see all the available finishes and options, visit the Kimber website at this link.
I found the sights on the Micro 9 adequate. That is about the best I can say. The sights are a three-dot arrangement with white dots. In low light conditions, the sight picture can be hard to find. I would be much happier with better sights. Perhaps a fiber optic front sight would make things work better.
Overall, the two-dot Kimber Micro 9 factory sights are adequate, but not suitable as factory night sights.
If you need to adjust the sights on your Kimber Micro 9, you should buy a sight pusher. The tolerances on the dovetails can be tight, and the rear sight may be hard to move, even with a sight pusher. The front sights are fixed, and there is no user adjustment for elevation.
One thing I have noted in shooting and handling a large number of sub-compact handguns is that the triggers are usually sub-par. Even my Glock 43 trigger is a little sloppy. However, Kimber seems to have paid attention to the trigger details as well as they did the visual details.
I found the trigger pull on the Micro 9 to be clean and smooth. The trigger pull on the pistol I tested measures a little over 3 lbs with my makeshift pull tester. (I use a slightly modified luggage scale to test triggers.)
I like the feel of the trigger as well. The trigger break was clean and crisp with no noticeable creep. The reset is quick and precise. Unlike some other sub-compact triggers, the Micro 9 trigger fit matched the rest of the gun with no side-to-side or up and down play in the trigger.
Operation and Functionality
From a shooter’s standpoint, the Micro 9 is a well-designed and easy-to-handle firearm. Everything is where it should be and operates as it should. There don’t seem to be any compromises with the controls on this pistol.
Unfortunately, it is common for sub-compact pistols to come up short on the scale of ease of use and operation. Not so the Kimber Micro 9.
In my opinion, there are three controls on a semi-automatic pistol that define the superiority of the gun. These three controls, the magazine release, the slide lock, and the thumb safety are critical especially on any pistol you choose to carry as a self-defense firearm. In the case of the Kimber Micro 9, they have met the criteria by a wide margin.
These three critical controls are located within easy reach. This isn’t difficult on such a small frame pistol, but the size of the controls and how they are arranged on the frame can make all the difference in the world. All three are placed on the Micro 9 so that they are naturally where your hand expects them.
The magazine release is neither too small nor too large. It doesn’t interfere with a proper grip but is easily located and activated. This is an important feature of a gun with a small single-stack magazine that only holds seven rounds. In some situations, a magazine change can become a very serious issue. Having to fumble to find the magazine release under stress could prove disastrous.
The Slide Release
I consider the slide release as a backup issue under most circumstances. If you encounter an empty magazine situation and manage a mag change but can’t manually pull the slide to release the slide forward, the slide release becomes your one-handed backup. Having a generously sized slide lever makes it much easier to employ the slide release in this fashion if necessary.
Magazines and Magazine Changes
First off, the Kimber Micro 9 only comes with one magazine from the factory. For a gun in this price range that has a single stack, a 7-round magazine is a little cheesy in my opinion. Kimber could have added a second magazine to the box.
The metal mag that comes with the Micro 9 is, in my book, nothing special. It is functional and appears to be well made. This is a beveled magazine, which is a big plus. I always wonder where gun manufacturers source their mags. When I am buying extras, that would be good information to know.
Magazine changes on sub-compact pistols are always challenging, especially with a single-stack magazine. The magazine well is narrow at best. and it can be hard to index the magazine in a stressful situation. The extension to the magazine provides a convenient place for your little finger.
Grip and Feel
Depending on the model of the Micro 9 you select, the grip texture will be different. Among the various models, you can find rosewood grip panels or composite grip panels. The stippling pattern and style of the grips vary as well. What is true across the various models is that the grip size seems perfect on the Micro 9.
The stippling and the patterns of the various Micro 9 grips that I tried felt secure and comfortable in my hand. What I cannot speak to is how well the various styles of grip work under stress and when the weather is hot. Sweat often makes pistol grips behave differently and is often hard to handle.
In the hand, the Kimber Micro 9 feels right. The balance is correct and the grip rake puts the gun in a natural point of aim position when extended. For me, the feel of any gun in my hand is as important as how well the pistol feeds from the magazine or how easily I can pick up the sights. The Kimber is a natural fit.
As you might expect, the Kimber Micro 9 excels as a concealed carry gun. Kimber named this pistol quite appropriately. The Micro 9 is, well, almost microscopic as far as 9mm guns go. That should make concealing this firearm exceedingly easy.
The small frame and the lightweight lend this semi-automatic pistol to concealed carry where it might not otherwise be practical. Oftentimes, formal or dress attire creates its own problems for concealed carry. The thin profile of the Micro 9 has the potential to allow concealment where it might otherwise be possible.
Since I routinely carry a Glock 43, the single-stack magazine doesn’t give me much pause. However, some people may not find the thought of only having 7 rounds in their self-defense gun much comfort. My experience tells me that most self-defense situations take place at close range and rarely last for more than a few seconds. I am not counting on a protracted gunfight.
If you choose the Kimber Micro 9 as your carry gun, I suggest you invest in at least two extra magazines and a good off-side magazine carrier.
On the Range
The real test of any pistol that you intend to carry for your personal defense is found on the range. You may have the best-looking or most expensive gun on the market. If you can’t hit a target reliably, when under pressure, at a reasonable distance, you might as well have a slingshot.
If your gun choice has met the criteria for reliability, function, and quality, the rest of the equation rests on its accuracy. Accuracy is not so much about how the gun performs when clamped to a vice on a concrete bench. Almost any modern gun will perform adequately under these conditions. I am talking about how accurate is the gun in your hands.
The Tale of the Data
The theoretical data that most gun manufacturers tout on their firearms information page is done under optimum conditions, with the best possible choice of ammunition, and under almost clinical circumstances. The data that matters most for me is how any gun performs in real-time under real-life conditions.
Any pistol that is carried for self-defense should be range tested with the ammunition you intend to carry with the gun. I chose to test with Federal Premium 124 gr. Hydrashok ammunition. This is one of the most used self-defense ammunition on the market and what I carry in my Glock 43.
Average data compiled from range tests using standard off-the-shelf testing gear reveals the following from the Kimber Micro 9.
- Muzzle Velocity – 1080 FPS
- Highest Muzzle Velocity – 1105 FPS
- Lowest Muzzle Velocity – 1049 FPS
Keep in mind that this is a gun with a 3.15-inch barrel length. Federal advertises a muzzle velocity of 1,120 FPS from a four-inch barrel.
The Target Results
I generally test sub-compact concealed carry personal defense guns on the range at 25, 15, and 7 yards. I will be the first to admit that a 25-yard shot with a sub-compact pistol with a 3.2-inch barrel is asking a lot. However, after firing 50 rounds at this distance on a standard silhouette target I was amazed. All 50 shots were in the black. Over half were in the 7 ring or better.
I am no championship pistol shooter. I think I am better than average, but at my age, my reflexes and eyesight are not what they once were. However, the results at the 25-yard range impressed me enough to believe that the Kimber Micro 9 is quite capable of more than decent accuracy at this range with a reasonably good shooter on the trigger.
At 15 yards and 7 yards, the groups tightened up considerably. Since these represent the ranges that FBI statistics show are where most self-defense shootings take place, this is where I spent most of my range time. Over the course of 300 rounds, all but three of my shots were in the 7 ring. I did have three flyers that went outside the seven ring, one of which was on the white paper. I attribute some of these to fatigue after several hours on the range.
Functionality on the Range
I shot almost 400 rounds with the Kimber Micro 9. The first 50 were warmup rounds to work the kinks out of both me and the gun. The remaining 350 rounds were for the record. 300 of the rounds were ball ammunition. The last 50 were various self-defense rounds to test feed and operation with this specialty ammunition.
I experienced 4 failures to feed and one failure to eject during my tests. One of the failures to feed and the failure to eject were done intentionally. I limp wristed the pistol just to see how it would react. As I suspected, one time the action failed to pick up a round from the factory mag, and one empty casing stovepiped in the action.
My overall impression is that unless you get some bad ammunition or you are improperly firing the Kimber Micro 9, it should perform flawlessly using factory ammo. I did some reload tests. The factory magazine release dropped the empty magazine clear every time without a hangup or stuck mag.
My Final Thoughts
The Micro 9 lives up to the Kimber reputation. The fit, finish, and performance are everything I would expect from a gun in this price range. There are, of course, a few things that I find lacking, but others may not see them as shortcomings.
I enjoyed shooting the Kimber Micro 9. It is one of only a few sub-compact pistols that I could take to the range for practice on a regular basis.
The Kimber Micro 9 offers mild recoil for a gun this size, making it easy to handle for smaller individuals. The size also makes it easy to concealed carry this gun under almost any circumstances. If you are in the market for a 1911-style pistol with a single action trigger in 9mm, the Kimber Micro 9 is definitely worth a look.