Kimber Solo Carry Stainless – Pocket Carry Without Compromises

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by Guest Blogger Bruce F.
Kimber offers several Solo variations ranging from the basic Solo Carry to the Solo CDP from their Custom Shop.  The review pistol is the base model Solo Carry Stainless with a MSRP of $815.  Current street prices will often be less than MSRP.

Kimber offers several Solo variations ranging from the basic Solo Carry to the Solo CDP from their Custom Shop. The review pistol is the base model Solo Carry Stainless with a MSRP of $815. Current street prices will often be less than MSRP.

I first heard about the Kimber Solo from the new gun reports coming out of the 2011 SHOT show.  At the time it was big news and I was really intrigued to hear that a major manufacturer, which I only knew from its reputation in building high grade .22 rifles in the 1990’s and high end 1911-pattern pistols, was jumping into the increasingly crowded pocket pistol market.  I was even more interested when I learned more about the Solo and discovered it was a single action striker-fired pistol with a good set of sights, ambidextrous manual safety and magazine release.  As a fan of all pocket 9mm pistols, I made a mental note to watch my local shops and check one out as quickly as possible.Eventually, one of the largest Kimber dealers in our area received a Solo demonstration pistol.  I had a chance to handle the pistol and really liked the way it felt in my hand.  Constructed from stainless steel and aluminum, the all metal pistol had a good weight and balance even with an empty magazine.  The build quality looked outstanding.  What really sold me on the pistol was its size.  As far as pocket 9mm pistols go, only a select few can ride comfortably in my front pocket for all day carry.  Visually the Solo appeared to be just a shade smaller than my old-style bullnose Kahr PM9, and the weight felt about the same.  For me, it would definitely work as a pocket pistol.

Kimber Solo Specifications
Caliber: 9mm Luger
Height (inches) 90° to barrel: 3.9
Weight (ounces) with empty magazine: 17
Length (inches): 5.5
Magazine capacity: 6 rounds – 8 rounds optional magazine

Frame
Material: Aluminum
Finish: KimPro II
Width (inches): .995 not including safety.  1.15 including safety.
Magazine Release and Manual Safety are ambidextrous

– A quick glance at the major pistol components shows a blending of traditional and contemporary design elements.  The grip angle, grip scales, slide stop, safety levers and magazine are distinctly 1911 inspired.)

– A quick glance at the major pistol components shows a blending of traditional and contemporary design elements. The grip angle, grip scales, slide stop, safety levers and magazine are distinctly 1911 inspired.)

Slide
Material: Stainless steel
Finish: Satin silver

Barrel
Length (inches): 2.7Material: Stainless steel
Twist rate (left hand): 10

Sights
Fixed low profile
Radius (inches): 4.4

Grips
Black synthetic
Checkered / smooth

Trigger
Single action striker-fired
Factory setting (approximate pounds):  7

Included with Pistol
One 6 round flush-fit stainless steel magazine
Kimber logo padded carry case
Cable lock
Manual

The Solo I handled that day was a non-firing demonstrator, and there was a waiting list to get the pistol. However, one of the unexpected benefits of the most recent ammunition shortage has been greater availability of some gun models.  Every Solo ships with a very specific list of recommended ammunition that Kimber has determined will allow the Solo to function reliably.  The approved ammunition short list includes selected loads from the Hornady TAP, Remington Golden Saber, and Federal Hydra-Shok lines.  All loads must have a bullet weighing 124 grains or more.  At the peak of the ammunition shortage, my local dealer was now flush with Kimber Solos.  I’m assuming the folks on the waiting list decided to pass on their chance to buy when they couldn’t purchase the recommended ammunition.  I handled one again, and purchased it last April.

The Solo ships with one six-round magazine.  I typically don’t even test fire a pistol until I have a few extra magazines, so the Solo sat on the shelf for months waiting for magazine supply to catch up with demand.  Recently, Kimber started offering magazines again from their web store.  I picked up a few extra six and eight-round magazines. I will comment that Kimber spare magazines are very well priced.  In some cases $10 to $20 less than spares for other popular 9mm pocket pistols.  Spare magazines are currently available from many sources, so the shortage appears to be a thing of the past.

Pre-shoot Impressions:

Kimber ships a one page “quick start” document with every Solo that includes the new pistol break in requirement and three recommended ammunition types from Hornady, Remington, and Federal.  The Remora Holsters Micro Size 2 and 8-round extended magazine made a great combination for IWB carry.

Kimber ships a one page “quick start” document with every Solo that includes the new pistol break in requirement and three recommended ammunition types from Hornady, Remington, and Federal. The Remora Holsters Micro Size 2 and 8-round extended magazine made a great combination for IWB carry.

The manual supplied with the Solo is a quick read.  It’s mercifully short for those who hate reading manuals, It’s also free of any big surprises.  I did pick up on some noteworthy points I want to mention.  The first is ammunition selection.  Like other similar sized micro 9mm pistols, the Solo works best when fed a steady diet of full power defensive ammunition in bullet weights of 124 grains or larger.  If you chose to run lighter bullets or lower velocity practice ammunition through the pistol, you can expect some failures with extraction and feeding.

Kimber defines the Solo as a single action striker-fired pistol.  This may seem confusing at first since most other striker-fired pistols are labeled as double action or double action only.  What makes the Solo a single action is that the striker is partially pre-cocked as the slide draws back to eject the fired case and moves forward to insert a fresh cartridge from the magazine.  The physical act of pulling the trigger lifts the firing pin block plunger and cocks the striker the remaining 10% necessary to release it from the sear.  What your trigger finger feels is a long smooth pull that’s free of any grittiness or spring stacking.  It actually feels like the trigger pull of a double action revolver that’s been treated to a well done trigger job.  Kimber publishes a 7 lb. trigger pull weight for the Solo.  I could immediately tell that my trigger was lighter than that.  I measured my trigger pull weight with a Lyman Digital Trigger pull gauge and the Solo clamped in a vise.  With very minor variation, my trigger pull weight averaged 5 lb. 6 oz.

My personal observation is that almost every other spring in the Solo is as heavy as it can possibly be without causing a malfunction.  That’s good for the gun and reliability, but may present a challenge for folks new to semi-auto pistols.  Retracting the slide can be a challenge if you aren’t accustomed to the small gripping surface on the slide and very heavy dual recoil spring assembly.  I’ve found that pushing forward on the grip frame while pulling back on the slide makes retracting the slide much easier.

The magazine springs are also very stiff and may require the aid of a magazine loader to fully top off the 6 and 8-round magazines.  Removing unfired rounds from full magazines is also a challenge as they will tend to nose dive into the magazine instead of following the angle of the feed lips out of the magazine.  The magazines work great in the pistol and that’s all the really matters so these minor annoyances are easily tolerated.  I found that leaving the magazines fully loaded for several days helped the springs take a set and made magazine loading easier.

Another spring powered operating point worth mentioning is the magazine release.  Micro pistols, like the Solo, don’t have large grip frames, and you will find that gripping the pistol with two hands covers every square inch of the grip area.  Under recoil, it’s not uncommon to bump the slide stop or magazine release without even knowing it.  Kimber took a proactive step and installed a heavy magazine release spring.  Couple this with the very strong magazine springs and it is virtually impossible for me to thumb the magazine release and drop a full magazine.  I have to push up on the magazine base, while thumbing the magazine release to drop a full magazine.  Dropping an empty magazine isn’t as difficult, but the magazine release is still very stiff.  I checked with some other Solo owners and this is a common complaint we all share.  I believe Kimber did this by design since the last thing you ever want to do is accidentally drop your magazine during the draw or when firing.  I’ve never had a magazine release while holstered in my pocket, but I have high confidence that will never happen with the Solo.  It’s a design consideration I’m willing to work with.

The Kimber Solo is a premium priced pocket pistol.  For the money, you should expect flawless execution of fit and finish.  This is my first Kimber-produced pistol and I was exceedingly pleased by how well the pistol was finished and fitted.  The slide is rounded off in all the right areas to facilitate a snag-free draw.  The frame features a relief cut trigger guard and high beavertail to increase gripping surface area on the front and back straps.  If I had one thing I would change on this model, it would be texturing or checkering on the front and back straps.  You will have to step up to the more expensive Solo CDP model for the additional grip treatment.

On the Range:

The 10 yard target results from my 25 round break-in shoot with the Solo.  I used Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shok as my break-in ammunition with zero functional issues.  The Remora Holsters size 3B pocket holster can also pull duty as an IWB holster.

The 10 yard target results from my 25 round break-in shoot with the Solo. I used Federal 124 grain Hydra-Shok as my break-in ammunition with zero functional issues. The Remora Holsters size 3B pocket holster can also pull duty as an IWB holster.

I was full of new gun jitters as I took the Solo to the range for the first time.  Kimber suggests a modest 24 round break-in shooting cycle with one of their three recommended 9mm loadings.  I had the 124 grain Federal Hydra-Shok on hand, so I used that for my initial break-in.  Using three 6-round magazines and one 8-round magazine loaded to 7 capacity, my 25 initial shots fed, fired, and extracted perfectly.  At 10 yards, the pistol shot close to point of aim with all shots centered.  I did notice a bit of vertical stringing as I got accustomed to the trigger.  I was now past the break-in point and my confidence in the Solo was building.

Earlier in the review I mentioned the heavy dual recoil spring assembly.  The springs really helped make the small Solo an enjoyable shooting experience by taming some of the sharp recoil present in many of the small pocket 9mm pistols.  I didn’t feel compelled to re-grip the pistol between shots even when using the flush fit 6-round magazine.  My trigger finger was definitely getting slapped by the trigger guard during recoil, but it was a small discomfort I’ve come to expect from 9mm pistols in this size class.  Ejection was weak with the Hydra-Shok.  A few of the brass cases were ejected into my shoulder and were found at my feet at the end of the break-in shoot.  As the recoil springs loosen up with use, I expect ejection to be more energetic.

On my second trip to the range, I took the opportunity to chronograph a variety of premium 12- grain self-defense loads in both standard pressure and +P loadings.  As I expected, the velocity test results showed the short barrel of the Solo was having a significant impact on velocity.  Expansion with any load is never guaranteed, especially when clothing barriers are involved, but velocity helps expansion so my choice of carry ammunition will probably be one of the +P loads tested.  The Solo may be an ideal candidate for the Speer Gold Dot Short Barrel 124 grain +P load, but I couldn’t track down a box in time for testing.  The accompanying table has the velocity test data captured during testing.

Kimber Solo chartThe use of +P ammunition in the Solo is neither endorsed nor forbidden by Kimber.  The manual simply states that high-quality, factory fresh, premium personal defense ammunition that complies with SAAMI specification be used in the Solo.  +P ammunition is a recognized SAAMI ammunition classification.  Kimber acknowledges the working life of their recoil spring assembly is 1,000 rounds and suggests replacement at that interval.  Frequent recoil spring replacement is not uncommon with pistols of this caliber and size.  I’ve seen replacement intervals as low as 200 rounds and as high as 1,500 suggested by other manufacturers.

After completing the chronographing, I set up a target at 7 yards and started practicing with the Solo.  With some practice, I found it quite easy to draw from the pocket and sweep off the thumb safety while bringing the sights to eye level.  The large white 3 dot sights were easy to pick up and aligned with only minor adjustment.  With more draw practice, I’m sure the Solo would point more naturally for me.  Shooting controlled singles, doubles, and triples yielded satisfactory results with shots landing in fist sized groups at point of aim.  During this practice session, I shot a few strings with Winchester 124 grain NATO FMJ.  I did experience two failures to eject using this ammunition.  These failures were classic stove pipe ejection faults that were easily cleared.  I had no other failures to feed or fire with the Solo through the 250 rounds fired during the review.

While working on the review I carried the Solo in the front pocket and also in waist band.  Pocket carry in the Remora pocket holster was comfortable and discreet.  This was my preferred carry preference.  I appreciated the ambidextrous controls of the Solo and holster as I alternated right pocket and left pocket carry.  I also tried the Solo carried in the waistband at 2 o’clock with the extended 8 round magazine installed.  This also worked well and was comfortable for all day carry.  The extended magazine really helped keep the pistol from “disappearing” below the waistband and provided plenty of grip area for the draw.

Currently available options to trick out your Solo include Meprolight fixed night sights, Crimson Trace Laser Grips, and a multitude of holsters for nearly any carry preference.  I’m a fan of aggressive texture G-10 aftermarket grips for my 1911 style pistols.  My usual provider of such grips has not started making them for the Solo, but I was told to keep checking back for availability.  I’m assuming that means they will eventually be available.  I did see several sets of beautiful exotic hardwood grips available at a popular on-line auction site.

The Solo micro 9mm has all the features you would expect on a full size 9mm pistol, yet it still fits in your pocket.  The engineers at Kimber have designed a pistol that allows the buyer to downsize their firearm for easier concealed carry without sacrificing or compromising function.  The small size, ambidextrous controls, large sights, slide lock, excellent trigger, and +P ammunition capability set it apart from most  other pocket 9mm pistols in the marketplace.  It will be equally useful as a weak side backup or strong side primary and I have no reservations utilizing it in either capacity.  If you replace your recoil spring assembly at the suggested interval and check your grip screws when you clean the pistol (they will loosen with shooting) the Solo should serve you well with many years of service.

About the Author:

Bruce F. is the Owner and Author of the Pocket  Guns and Gear Blog.  http://mousegunaddict.blogspot.com  He’s a multi-decade concealed carry license holder with a passion for small pistols and the ammunition that feeds them.  A self- proclaimed ballistics geek, his terminal ballistics tests have been cited by Wikipedia.  While not a serious competitive shooter, you may see him competing at ATA, IDPA, NRA, and Ruger Rimfire Challenge shoots.

 

{ 9 comments }

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Joe Simeone October 31, 2013, 12:30 pm

    I noticed the +p ammo only went 20 to 50 fps faster than it’s standard velocity counterpart. The Golden Saber+P had the most dramatic increase of velocity over the standard Golden Saber load. Other wise you would be best served with the non plus P loads, do to velocity loss with shorter barrels the Gold Dot short barrel ammo uses a shallow hollow point to reduce expansion and increase penetration. If you look at test done with Gold Dot loads this is what the overall results are. I really like +P ammo but you get the most bang with +P from a longer barrel (pun intended) than you will from a short barrel. The +P load from a short barrel will cause extra flash and blast, with very little increase in bullet performance. I have noticed with shorter barrels you will usually get more penetration with standard loads, which is what most worry about with a short barrel.

    • Bruce F November 2, 2013, 12:50 pm

      Hey Joe. I noticed the same thing when I was putting together the spreadsheet recapping the velocity testing. I was really surprised to see how narrow the spread between standard pressure and +P was with the Federal HST 124 grain. I do occasional gun reviews on my blog, but I spent most of my time working on terminal testing ammunition. I knew going in that this 2.7″ barrel was going to be an interesting beast to study since it also comes with a restriction of 124 grain or heavier bullets. I terminal tested 3 loads with the Solo in parallel with writing up the review. Unfortunately the review ran long and I couldn’t include the results in my review, but they are available on the blog and YouTube channel. Only 1 of 3 tested loads expanded. I plan to stick with the testing and try some of the standard pressure 124 grain loads, the Gold Dot Short Barrel (when I can get some), and also a cross section of the 147 grain loads. I’m sure I’ll find a few loads that will work with the Solo.

  • J. Rose November 1, 2013, 7:26 pm

    HI,
    THOUGHT YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO HELP ME DECIDE WHAT RIFLE/SHOTGUN AND HANDGUN WOULD BE THE BEST FOR A FIRST TIMER…MY USE WOULD BE FOR PROTECTION AND TARGET PRACTICE…I AM AN OLDER WOMAN WITH ARTHRITIS NOT A BIG ISSUE AT THIS POINT IN TIME,BUT WOULD BE LIMITED TO SHORTER PRACTICE TIME AT ONE TIME…I AM 5′ 3″AND MEDIUM FRAMED…A FEW OPTIONS TO TRY WOULD BE GREAT…THANK YOU FOR ANY HELP YOU MIGHT OFFER..J. ROSE

    • Administrator November 2, 2013, 8:13 pm

      Because of your arthritis I would not pick a shotgun at all. For a rifle, any AR rifle will be great. The Smith & Wesson M&P, Mossberg MMR are very well reviewed and inexpensive. For a handgun, a Ruger LCR revolver would be my choice.

  • Ronald November 12, 2013, 9:36 am

    I like the kimber but mith one clip and cheaply made and a plastec main spring has got to be the cheapis thing end at that price it beatter have ben de burd and no rattles in it but the ones I have tested wornt to good

  • Davidio Flavio November 12, 2013, 1:14 pm

    Didn’t these have trigger issues?

    I for one got sick of the lack of production, and over priced costs, by their ahem, “Exclusive” dealers, who know nothing about MSRP.

    Ended up with a P238, and then to a 938, and frankly, glad I didn’t wait for one of these, if you have 1911 experience, a single action pocket pistol isn’t an issue.

  • Jackie Alexander November 15, 2013, 1:04 am

    I am looking for a stainless Lady Smith 9mm. If anyone knows where I can get one, please let me know.

    Thanks,
    Jackie

  • Redleg28 March 1, 2014, 5:44 pm

    Got my new Solo 3 weeks ago and shot 350 rounds of nothing but 124 grain American Eagle, Winchester, Remington Golden Saber or 147 grain Hornady… had a few FTEs or failure to feeds with the original 6 and 8 round mags. My 1st set of mags could not be loaded past 5 or 6 rounds. Complained to dealer about a gun failing to hold stated amount of rounds and causing failures.Searched around at gun dealers and found a few that actually held what they were supposed to, purchased them and went about breaking in the gun. On my 8th box of 124 FMJ after using 5 of my mags, one of the mags was reloaded and I started getting FTEs. Every round! Grumbled took the gun home and cleaned it like I had done after each previous session of 100 rounds. Took the gun out again once more and tried to shoot some more Golden Sabers in the mag that gave me trouble and one other. Also Tried to shoot some 124 Western white box and American Eagle FMJs thru the other 6 round clips. About every 3rd or fourth round at least had a failure to extract or a double feed. The gun gad been working fine up to about round 370. Now nothing worked well. I am having the dealer send it back to Kimber. Gunsmith at dealer suggested I sell It after it gets “fixed”. Said he would not work on them because of problems with getting parts or reliability…too much of a chance of liability. I have a problem selling a known dangerous unreliable gun to someone else whose life may depend upon it working properly…I guess I’ll keep it as an expensive Safe Queen.

  • Rich Burr June 23, 2014, 2:17 pm

    The Solo was my first Kimber product. I had read the reviews and talked to a few guy stat had been shooting them. While the complaints about Failure to Fire were out there when using non premium ammo there were may who said their guns fired just about anything without issue. I really liked the feel of the gun and went ahead and made the purchase… hoping that Kimber was was just being cautious when they recommended only premium ammo and I could get away with lesser ammo on the range. Didn’t work out that way. Gun is great with the premium stuff, but has mostly failure to ejects with anything else I’ve tried. Don’t understand how some of them will fire almost anything and others won’t. Sounds like it’s a consistency of manufacture issue. When I carry, it will always be one of the recommend rounds. At the range I’ll keep trying some of the non premium stuff. Seems odd to me that any Manufacturer would build a carry gun that has such narrow range of ammo for proper use. None of my Sigs, S & W’s, or Kahr’s have that issue. This will likely be the only Kimber I own.

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