Gun Test: Kimber Micro 9
By Massad Ayoob, GUNS Magazine
Photos by Takashi Sato
At the 2016 SHOT Show in Las Vegas, editor Jeff John and I fondled the preview version of the Micro 9 at the Kimber booth. “I want you to write this up,” he said. But it took a while for them to come off the production line. Apparently, Kimber was waiting to make sure they had it right. Not until the following September was I able to test it. This petite pistola tips my scale at 20.35 ounces with a full six 124-grain JHP rounds in its magazine and a seventh in its launch tube. Width is a svelte 1.06 inches. While the owner’s manual contains warnings against carrying with a round in the chamber and a statement it might go off if dropped or struck, I expect this is out of an abundance of legal caution as the owner’s manual also states the Micro 9 has a firing pin lock, which disengages only when the trigger is pulled. I felt comfortable carrying it in Condition One (the thumb safety is a right- hand-only setup). Ours was the stainless steel model with aluminum frame and handsome wooden stocks.
The Accuracy Factor
It became apparent early in testing if I wanted a Kimber that shot tight groups, I wanted one of their .45’s already in my safe. My first shot with the Micro 9 at 7 yards hit the tiny red center of a 2-inch Birchwood Casey “Shoot-N-C” aiming dot. “We’re off to a good start,” I thought.
The rest of the magazine opened things up, and the whole 6-shot group was right at an inch and a half. Well, we’re still in a “deep brain size” group—at 7 paces. Next came the 25-yard line. While it’s popular on the Internet and even in the gun press to claim pistols this size should be tested at 7 yards because they’re unlikely to be used at any greater distance, I’m staying conservative in my belief bad guys don’t offer easier shots to good guys who have small handguns instead of big ones.
From a Caldwell Matrix rest on a concrete bench, each 5-shot group was measured overall and again for the best three, since I’ve found the latter measurement compensates for enough unnoticed human error to closely duplicate what the same guns and ammo will do for all five from a machine rest. Ammo represented the three most common bullet weights for the 9mm.
Most practice shooting was done with SIG Elite 115-grain FMJ, which is getting a good reputation and which I’m seeing in more and more gun shops. Even at 7 yards shots were starting to go a little high right and of course this was exacerbated at 25 yards. The 115-grain FMJ centered its group about 3.25 inches high and 2.5 inches right—the group measuring 5.35 inches for all five and 2.85 inches for the best three. Some feel short-barrel 9mms need all the velocity they can get, so the 124-grain chosen test load was Winchester Ranger Bonded +P JHP. With it, the 25-yard group centered some 4 inches high and about half that much right. All five shots created a 4.85-inch group, but the best three were in 1.95.
Many like a 147-grain JHP for stubby 9mms because it seems to lose less velocity than lighter, faster loads from very short barrels. The exemplar here was Remington-UMC jacketed truncated cone ammo. This proved to be the tightest shooting of the test, and the only one to make the oft-quoted standard for “acceptable service pistol accuracy at 25 yards,” meaning 4 inches. Five shots plunked into 3.95 and the best three in 2.80. The group centered about 4.5 inches high, but only an inch and a half right.
The 1911 heritage is obvious before and after fieldstripping (top, right).
The relatively large rear sight (above) and corresponding front post made
the Micro 9 more shootable.
Thumb Safety Issue
Our test team ranged from 6-foot Testosterone Creatures to 5-foot representatives of the Vast Estrogen Conspiracy, with proportionately-sized hands. None of the men felt the petite pistol was too small, and both of our female testers thought the trigger reach was pretty much perfect.
All these shooters were 1911 owners and very familiar with the platform. All noticed how the dimensions of frame and placement of the thumb safety subtly alter the familiar “1911 manual of arms.” If you are accustomed to “off-safing” your Government Model with the ball of your thumb, you find you are now hitting it with the skin on the web of the same thumb. Which still works, but feels weird at first.
Thumbing the lever down from “safe” to “fire” was positive and palpable, “just right” as it were. However, it’s so far back from where the thumb is used to hitting it, to put the gun back on “safe” all shooters—even the small-handed ones—had to break their grip slightly with the firing hand. And, obviously, it’s not an ambidextrous safety.
The angle of the thumb safety movement is also different from a full size 1911. Assuming a standard 1911’s safety is in the “fire” position, both gun and thumb will be—more or less—straight to point of aim (call this a “neutral” position). The “safe” position will be higher. On the little Micro 9, “safe” is going to be the “neutral” position, and the “fire” position will be lower. In other words, you may find yourself having to depress the lever farther downward than on your big 1911 to make this tiny one go “bang.”
The Micro 9 is dwarfed by Mas’ old full-size Kimber Classic .45.
Photo: Gail Pepin
John Strayer’s large hands got these “slide track marks” on his hand (above)
from the Micro 9. The “deeper than flush-fit” magazine negated the reloading
speed advantage of the beveled magwell (below). Photos: Gail Pepin
Sights, Trigger, Magazine
Our testers all agreed the sights were excellent, even if they didn’t send the bullets where the shooters were aiming. There’s a big (for a subcompact) fixed rear sight, and a commensurately large front post. Fortunately, both are dovetailed. A sight pusher would have easily corrected the bullets’ drift to starboard, and a taller front sight could easily have been installed to correct for elevation.
Collective impressions of the Micro 9’s trigger are fascinating and seemingly counterintuitive. We all “ballparked” the pull-weight to be lighter than it was. It turned out to be 9.87 pounds average. None of the experienced shooters on the test team felt the weight affected their hit potential with it and all found it to have a clean break (the Kimber website lists the pull weight spec for the Micro 9 at 7 pounds). Mike Cumpston’s November 2016 article on the Micro Carry .380 lists the pull-weight at 8 pounds. I suspect Kimber, fearing some customers might be careless enough to carry a loaded pistol loose in their pocket, made the trigger on the Micro 9 heavier.
Reloading the Micro 9 was a chore. While the mag well is beveled, the magazines themselves were “deeper than flush-fit,” requiring pushing the floorplate past the edge of the butt to lock the mag into place. I found myself doing it with my thumb to guarantee seating. The floorplates are not drilled for base pads and don’t extend past the frame, giving you little if anything to grasp should a malfunction require ripping the mag out. The frame where the front floorplate of the magazine rests is sharp and pointy, and a bit hostile to the hand slapping in the fresh magazine.
On a 60-shot, timed police-style qualification course, groups were nice and tight in the “weak hand only” and “strong hand only” stages at the 4-yard line. By 7 yards, I was already using a little Kentucky windage with a 7 o’clock hold, and applied it progressively as the distances increased. However, I didn’t apply it enough at 15 yards and four shots out of the 60 total escaped the center zone. I’d like to get the sights lined up for me and have a rematch.
I ran it on the Bianchi Cup falling plates from the 11-yard line. It ended up with all the plates down on each of four runs, but on one stage I was glad to have all 7 rounds in the tiny pistol instead of just 6. My times were just a little over what I generally get with a GLOCK 42 or 43 in the Pocket GLOCK event at GSSF matches, which uses the same steel plate setup.
The 25-yard results: Winchester Ranger Bonded 124-grain +P JHP. Kimber approves
+P but warns it accelerates wear. They do not recommend +P+.
115-grain SIG Elite FMJ went high right. All loads were reliable.
147-grain Remington training ammo grouped tightest, although the
aiming point was the bottom dot. Photos: Gail Pepin
The Bottom Line
At a price of $654, this pistol is designed to compete directly with the SIG P938 and indirectly with other 9mm compacts. With hundreds of rounds through it, we had no malfunctions whatsoever, and no testing parameter of a self-defense gun is more important than reliability.
Kimber’s Micro 9 is set off by a Streamlight ProTac 1L flashlight, a Spyderco
Delicia A4 and American Eagle HST 9mm ammo. Out of 60 shots, Mas dropped only
4 shots (below) out of the center zone on qualification with the Micro 9. He
shot the pistol 1-handed only and found it very controllable. Photos: Gail Pepin
The Verdicts Are In
Said Steve Denney, “The two-finger grip turned out to be much more comfortable
and controllable than I expected. Nice trigger! The safety felt just a little
awkward compared to the full-size 1911 I used to carry on duty.” Photo: Gail Pepin
It’s always good to get feedback from more than one experienced shooter for a test such as this. Here’s what our test team had to say:
Terri Strayer (female champion in IDPA and NRA Hunter Pistol and gun shop co-owner) said, “I think it shot very nice. It was very controllable and comfortable to shoot. With the manual safety it would be good for purse or bellyband carry.”
John Strayer (state and regional IDPA champ and gun shop co-owner) said, “Very controllable. Sights will need to be regulated, though they give a great sight picture. The slide left tracks on the back of my hand as it fired. The safety was a little awkward compared to the full-size 1911 I usually shoot.”
Allen Davis (division champion shooter, gun store manager, retired LE officer) said, “It’s way more comfortable to shoot than my 642 J-Frame! Nice sights!”
Steve Denney (retired police supervisor and current firearms instructor) said, “The 2-finger grip turned out to be much more comfortable and controllable than I expected. Nice trigger! The safety felt just a little awkward compared to the full-size 1911 I used to carry on duty.”
Gail Pepin (female state and regional IDPA champ) said, “I love the trigger. I like the idea of the manual safety on this type of pistol. I wish I could have carried it in my bellyband at the convention last week instead of the .380 I wound up wearing.”
Mas found the Micro 9 was to be extremely comfortable in this
CrossBreed Hybrid IWB holster. Photo: Gail Pepin
The new BugBite holster provides another carry option when ankle
carry is on the agenda. Photo: Gail Pepin
I wore the Micro 9 loaded with 124-grain +P JHP for three days, every waking hour. Here’s how it went:
Day 1: Used a CrossBreed IWB between tucked-in shirt and concealment garment. No problem at all, and predictably, so comfortable I hardly knew it was there.
Day 2: Same carry, but against bare skin under an un-tucked polo shirt. Felt no sharp edges, no discomfort.
Day 3: Used the new BugBite holster, which slides over the inside of the calf. Because this Spandex rig holds the pistol much higher above the foot than a conventional ankle holster, it took a good bit of getting used to. Took practice getting the pants cuff way up with the support hand to clear a path for the drawing hand. It proved remarkably comfortable, but also remarkably slow. Would add style points to an open carry demonstration if worn with shorts, I suppose.
Overall, the Micro 9 was designed for concealed carry. It absolutely fit its design parameters.