Words and photos by J. Guthrie
If I were seated in a padded room, playing the word association game, and the psychoanalyst held up a little card that read “Kimber,” my immediate answer would be “1911.”
The company makes fine rifles and has sold very nice shotguns, but is really defined by its all-encompassing line of 1911 pistols. I had assumed, after hearing rumors about Kimber’s new micro carry gun, the design would mirror the pistol on which the company was built. Not so. The ultra-compact 9 mm certainly shares a few features with America’s classic fighting pistol, but is decidedly different.
The Solo actually got its start on the pages of a dealer survey. Kimber asked its Master Dealers more than three years ago what they wanted most, and a lightweight, compact, but bigger-than-.380 carry gun was the answer.
In-house engineers were given a loose set of parameters like trigger pull, weight and external dimensions, and then left to their devices. Instead of a single-action pistol with an external hammer, barrel bushing and link, the Solo is striker fired and sports the Browning-style, tilting-barrel action. But barrel-locking lugs forward of the chamber and slide mortises can be found on both.
The Solo also has the same 1911 grip angle, an ambidextrous thumb safety, slide lock and ambidextrous magazine release that are positioned to work like, and shaped to look like, 1911 controls.
It is no small engineering feat to pack all these features into the reduced space of a micro pistol. Where Kimber engineers excelled was making them all work together in an exceptional way. In fact, some of their approaches were so novel that Kimber is in the process of applying for several patents.
On the sample gun provided to me, the trigger pull was long, smooth and had a pull weight of 7 pounds, 11 ounces, though it felt much lighter. There is no stacking, sticking or hitches, just a smooth ride back to bang. By compressing the firing pin spring almost 88 percent of the way, the action does the lion’s share of the work, allowing for a lighter pull.
Making small pistols reliable is another huge challenge, but Kimber’s previous developmental work creating 3-inch 1911s—a notoriously finicky pistol—that functioned reliably certainly helped pave the way. There are a couple of scallops taken out of the slide around the ejection port meant to direct bouncing brass out of play. The slide travels just 1.5 inches rearward during cycling, and the Solo’s short, 2.7-inch barrel did not give engineers a long or forgiving lever for extraction and feeding. The solution was a barrel that oscillates, pivoting in three different places during the firing cycle.
The higher a cartridge nose sits in the magazine, the easier it will slide into the chamber. But that position can cause issues as the slide moves rearward to extract. Kimber engineers placed a small bump on the slide’s underside to hold the round down. Once the bump has passed, the cartridge is able to resume a very aggressive upward angle—brilliant.
Though it only weighs 17 ounces, the Solo is a very comfortable gun to shoot. Recoil is snappy, but controllable. There are no sharp edges or pinch points. Quite a few of Kimber’s other carry guns are “melted” but there is no old, leather apron-wearing gunsmith standing at a belt sander creating sparks. CNC machinery is able to produce the smooth edges during machining. Both models have frames machined from aluminum—they just wear different color coatings—and slides and barrels of stainless steel. Front and rear sights are also steel and sit tight in dovetails, and the rear is locked in place with a setscrew.
At first, I had my doubts about the safety. Was it needed and, more importantly, could the tiny appendage be operated under pressure? As small as it is, deactivating the safety on the draw stroke is surprisingly easy. It was never accidentally activated during test firing. My average-sized hands did not have any trouble with the magazine release or slide stop either.
Currently there are three models available. The two standard models sell for $747 and a new CDP version with Crimson Trace laser grips, night sights and front- and back-strap checkering runs $1,223. Spare stainless steel magazines, including an 8-round model that extends the grip, and night sights are available as accessories. Both Mitch Rosen and Galco are already making leather for the Solo.
The Solo, while a little pricey compared to other pistols in this category, was as advertised. It is absolutely reliable, accurate and displayed very clever engineering on the part of Kimber’s in-house designers.
Specifications for Kimber Solo Carry
Type: Striker-fired, single action semi-automatic
Caliber: 9 mm Luger
Overall length: 5.5 inches
Height: 3.9 inches
Width: 1.2 inches
Weight: 17 ounces
Barrel length: 2.7 inches
Trigger pull: 7 pounds, 11 ounces
Capacity: 6+1; 8+1 magazine optional
Frame material: Aluminum
Slide material: Stainless steel
Finish: KimPro II, black or silver; matte stainless
Grips: Black synthetic
Sights: Low-profile, three-dot; night sights available
MSRP: $747 (standard); $1,223 (CDP with front- and back-strap checkering, night sights and Crimson Trace laser grips)
Black Hills 155-grain JHP EXP—3.74 inches
Hornady 147-grain TAP CQ—3.23 inches
Remington 147-grain Golden Saber—3.55 inches
Winchester 147-grain PDX1—3.10 inches
Average derived from four, 5-shot groups at 25 yards from a sandbag rest.
America's 1st Freedom
NRA's pure news magazine especially for our membership. Its mission is to deliver professional, compelling, accurate, timely and hard-hitting journalism that tells the truth about the threats to our Second Amendment rights.